By Embassy of The Republic of Kazakhstan

KAZAKHSTAN JOINS COUNTRIES WITH HIGH HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEXKazakhstan has joined the group of countries with High Human Development Index (HDI) in the report published by the United Nations Development Program October 5.

Kazakhstan, with an HDI of 0,804, took the 82nd place out of 182 countries ranked. Kazakhstan’s HDI grew steadily during the last 14 years at an average of 0.2%. While this year’s report uses data for 2007, the rating did grow again this year, from 0,794 to 0,804.

The biggest factors pushing Kazakhstan’s ratings up are high literacy rate of 99.6% (10th place in relevant rating), as well as the promotion of gender equality. Taking into account the gap between the HDI for men and women, the difference between Gender Development Index (GDI) and HDI for the Republic of Kazakhstan is 0.2% (11th place). This is the best result for a Central Asian country. In adult literacy rate (female as % male), women lag behind men in Kazakhstan only by 0.3% (32nd result).

The biggest drawback for Kazakhstan’s overall rating remains relatively short life expectancy of 64.9 years. The reason for this low rate is high mortality from heart and coronary diseases, traumas (especially during road accidents) and respiratory diseases. Aggravating the situation are consequences of two environmental catastrophes of the past half a century, those of nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk test site and the shrinking Aral Sea.

Yet, the situation in this sphere is bound to change in a not too distant future due to concerted actions.

The Kazakh Government adopted a program, “Development of cardiology and cardiac care in the Republic of Kazakhstan,” allowing to detect cardiovascular disease at early stages. It involves improving the material base of hospitals throughout the country. The budget for healthcare will also be increased substantially. According to the 2009-2011 national budget, 34 billion tenge (one US dollar equals 150 tenge) will be allocated for provision and expansion of guaranteed free medical care in 2009, 47 billion tenge in 2011, and 54 billion tenge in 2011.

Since last year Kazakhstan also introduced a law requiring drivers and front seat passengers to wear safety belts. This regulation has drastically reduced the number of fatal accidents. The Internal Affairs Ministry says exact figures will be published at the end of the year.

In order to combat respiratory diseases authorities also decided to impose a number of restrictions on the distribution of tobacco products, with the new Code of Public Health Care entering into force October 9. The Government imposed a total ban on smoking in public places and raised the drinking age from 18 to 21. All prohibitions meet the standards of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

In addition to these measures, the rehabilitation of the Aral Sea region in partnership with the World Bank is already allowing Kazakhstan to improve the lives of the people in the area.

In overall HDI ratings, Kazakhstan still slipped nine positions, from 73rd place in 2008, mostly due to the inclusion for the first time of such countries as Liechtenstein, Andorra, Montenegro, Serbia and St. Lucia. In addition, a big jump was made by Venezuela (from 74 to 58), Turkey (from 84 to 79), and Peru (from 87 to 78).

Only two countries from the Commonwealth of Independent States, Belarus (68) and Russia (71) outstripped Kazakhstan in human development index.