The present study is focused on 11 of the 13 ESCWA members. It includes Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, and compares the achievements and improvements these countries have recorded in human development. The study outlines the broad patterns of economic development in these countries and their social spending on health and education during the period 1975-2002.
The data presented below reveal the economic, educational and health challenges in the ESCWA region. The main findings of the study are:
there has been a steady improvement in key educational indicators
there is an impressive decline in mortality rates with increases in social spending
substantial progress has been made in lowering mortality rates
life expectancy in these countries increased by 15 years, and mortality rates fell significantly
infant mortality decreased by more than 71 per cent and child mortality by 67 per cent for the period 1975-2002
The study concludes with a note of caution on interpreting the data. The findings set out in the panel regression analysis are consistent with other studies on the topic. They are based on a cross-sectional analysis, which limits the ability to assign cause and effect. In addition, care must be exercised in interpreting associations between grouped data and events that occur at an individual level.
Finally, since the study is based on aggregated national data and does not analyse individual-level data, a great deal of the underlying intra-country differences are not fully captured through aggregation. Despite the above limitations, this study is useful in highlighting the problems detected through the available data. It also clearly shows that economic growth is not enough to improve human development.
The countries in the ESCWA region need to ensure that all people, especially the poor, have access to good quality education and health care. This can be achieved by broadening and enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of both spending on, and service delivery systems of, human services. Increases in spending are likely to have little impact unless money and services are targeted at those who need them most.