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MENA economic growth “does not automatically” lead to social advancement

  • Eight MENA countries included in the Social Progress Index ranking for 2014
  • Social Progress Index enables better understanding of worldwide progress and growth

13 April, 2014 - Economic growth does not always result in social progress, according to a major new global index, the Social Progress Index, published by the nonprofit Social Progress Imperative, and released last week at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. For Middle East countries in the 2014 Social Progress Index , the UAE ranks 37th followed closely by Kuwait in the 40th position, Saudi Arabia 65th, Jordan 75th, Lebanon 83rd, Egypt 84th, Iraq 118th and Yemen 125th. Among the 132 countries rankings, the top 5 are: New Zealand, Switzerland, Iceland, Netherlands and Norway.

The Social Progress Index 2014 ranks 132 countries based on their social and environmental performance. Higher GDP per capita does bring benefits, particularly on ‘Basic Human Needs’ but rising incomes do not guarantee improvement on ‘Ecosystem Sustainability’, ‘Health and Wellness’ and ‘Opportunity’.

The Social Progress Index, created by a team led by Professor Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School, is designed as a complement to GDP and other economic indicators to provide a more holistic understanding of countries’ overall performance.

Professor Michael E. Porter said: “Until now, the assumption has been that there is a direct relationship between economic growth and wellbeing. However, the Social Progress Index finds that all economic growth is not equal. While higher GDP per capita is correlated with social progress, the connection is far from automatic. For similar levels of GDP, we find that some countries achieve much higher levels of social progress than others.”

Deloitte is collaborating globally with the Social Progress Imperative and others because we believe business has a role to play in helping address and solve the world’s critical issues and the Index is a tool that can ignite collective action from business, government and society,” said Omar Fahoum, chairman and chief executive of Deloitte Middle East.

The Social Progress Index does show a broad positive correlation between economic performance, (measured in GDP per capita) and social progress. Countries with higher incomes tend to enjoy greater social progress: New Zealand ($25,858 *GDP per capita) ranks highest in the Index while Chad ($1,870* GDP per capita) ranks lowest.

For lower income countries, economic growth will not necessarily result in significantly improved social progress. For example, on ‘Personal Safety’, it’s only when countries reach high-income status that homicide rates, violent crime and traffic deaths seem to significantly reduce, but even then there is a wide spread of variation between these high-income nations. Until then the improvements in ‘Personal Safety’, between low -and middle- income countries, remains stubbornly limited.

Main findings of the Social Progress Index:

1. Global findings

  1. New Zealand is this year’s top performing country.
  2. The Netherlands is the best performing country in European Union.
  3. Canada is the best performing G8 country.
  4. The United States finishes 16th behind Canada (7th) and the UK (13th).
  5. Russia ranked 80th in the Index, below the Ukraine (62nd) and Georgia (66th).
  6. Slovenia and Estonia are Europe’s big success story, scoring better than France, Spain and Italy. Of the big EU countries Italy is a big under-performer, also coming in behind former Soviet bloc countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland.
  7. Costa Rica and Uruguay are the star performers in Latin America.
  8. Brazil is the top of the BRICS, followed by:  South Africa, Russia, China, and India.

2. Middle East findings

  1. The Social Progress Index ranking for the Middle East countries included in 2014 are: UAE (37th), Kuwait (40th),  Saudi Arabia (65th),  Jordan (75th), Lebanon (83rd),  Egypt (84th),  Iraq (118th) and Yemen (125th)
  2. Excluding Yemen and Iraq, all Middle East countries outrank China in the Social Progress Index
  3. United Arab Emirates (37th) and Kuwait (40th) rank ahead of the BRICS countries (Brazil (46th), South Africa (69), Russia (80th), China (90th) and India (102th))
  4. Kuwait is third from the top in terms of GDP among the 132 countries
  5. Saudi Arabia ranks first among the 132 countries in lowest suicide rate (deaths per 100,000)
  6. Lebanon ranks 25th in terms of life expectancy among the 132 countries and the highest rank for the Middle East in the report
  7. Jordan ranks first in lowest homicide rate
  8. Iraq ranks 12th among the 132 countries in lowest suicide rate (in terms of deaths per 100,000)

                                                                  -END-

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