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Jul 31, 1998

Report measures national achievement

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While politicians argue exactly how good or how bad things are in Belize, other segments of society are taking a more analytical approach, in the hope that solutions are best achieved after first ascertaining the facts. Today one such group unveiled a study that seeks to measure just how we’re doing as a nation of human beings. Patrick Jones reports.

The thirty-eight page report is the culmination of eight months of research and compilation of data by the National Human Development Advisory Committee. It covers a wide range of issues, including health, education and poverty, regarded as key factors in the development of our people. Committee Chairperson Nancy Namis says the report provides a basis for monitoring the state of human development in Belize and a means of developing strategies and programs to achieve that goal.

Nancy Namis, Chairperson, N.H.D.A.C.

“There is a need to develop a tool which would be used to measure the extent of human development occurring in the country. It is also a tool that will be used to advocate for human development in the country. It is also a tool to place humans in the center of all development that will occur in Belize.”

The document, titled: “Taking Stock – National Human Development Report 1997″ looks at short and medium term challenges that Belize faces and makes recommendations to bring about sustainable human development.

Moises Cal, Programme Officer, U.N.D.P.

“This report is basically aimed for policy makers, for members of the N.G.O. community, for the international community as well, to see where the impact of the programs and projects have been. Also for government in particular and to identify the areas for intervention, where there are priorities, where there are needs, and where we need to perhaps be more efficient in the allocation of resources.”

The report points out that since 1960, there have been no less than six development plans put forward by government, some of which never received the support needed to move beyond the printing press, while others are currently being worked on. Between 1991 and 1996, however, the report noted that Gross Domestic Product grew by 23 percent while the population grew by only 14 percent. The end result the report says, is that the country’s per capita income is approximately four thousand dollars, which makes Belize a high-middle income country. The report indicates that more people are living in urban areas than the rural, the ratio being 51 percent to 49 percent. The Belize and Cayo districts make up half of the population of the country.

In education, it says that while government is spending a lot of money, the results are less than desirable and there continues to be a high drop out rate and low academic achievement. On the issue of poverty, the Toledo District continues to lead in this area with forty seven percent of households considered poor. U.N.D.P.’s Programme Officer Moises Cal says while the report does not address every issue, it is a good start.

Moises Cal

“We believe that this is a very good first initiative for the government and people of Belize to produce this report which is basically a compilation of a situation of human development in the country from the social and economic aspects. It is true that perhaps there are some of the sectors that might not be reflected in the report as yet but I still believe it’s a very good initiative.”

In the area of health, the report does not paint a robust picture, but Acting Director of Health Services for Cayo, Doctor Ramon Figueroa, says all is not lost and that there was nothing included in the report that his ministry didn’t know before.

Dr. Ramon Figueroa

“There are things that we still need to point out. I’m not going to say that it’s a completely bleak picture, but there are things we need to address and we have to accept the fact that over time our infrastructure has deteriorated and that is part of the explanation why our health care services is under such criticism. One of the problems has been the growing inequitable access to health care; I mean the provision of health care. We could see it with the information I presented in terms of the discrepancy between urban and rural water and sanitation, which has a high impact on health. Look at mortality rates between districts as well. There is some districts that obviously have high mortality rates, so in general terms the indicator is showing us that there is a great inequity in the access and the provision of health care to the country of Belize and we have to address some of those issues.”

Nancy Namis

“The document is being taken up by the National Human Development Advisory Committee. This committee is an inter-sectoral committee, comprising of government, N.G.O.s and the private sector and some funding agencies. This committee will be ensuring that the different recommendations and strategies outlined in this document will be put into place. This organization has been approved by Cabinet and it acts as an advisory body to Cabinet. Therefore we would envision that the different recommendations should impact upon for example the education sector, the health sector and the other various organizations represented on the committee and that is the way we see ourselves promoting the implementation of these strategies.”

And while those who may be responsible for the implementation of the report’s recommendations are currently locked in a heated election campaign, the sponsors and authors of “Taking Stock” say it should make interesting reading, even those who don’t win at the polls next month. Patrick Jones for News Five.

The study was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme. Work has already begun on the report for 1998.

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