Jamaica ranks 23rd most sustainably developed country in world

Jamaica ranks 23rd most sustainably developed country in world

Cuba ranked first, Trinidad 40th, Singapore last

BY ALEXIS MONTEITH
Observer writer

Friday, January 03, 2020

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According to the Sustainable Development Index (SDI) which assesses the “ecological efficiency of human development”, Jamaica is ranked 23rd in the world; but it is the island's immediate neighbour, Cuba, that is ranked number one, globally.

The English language socialist newspaper, the Morning Star, recently carried a story featuring Cuba's top position on the index, and highlighted the difference between the Human Development Index (HDI) and the SDI, which was created as an alternative to the more conventional and widely-accepted HDI.

“Countries that have high human development with low ecological impact rise to the top of the SDI,” the SDI website explains. “Countries with low human development, and countries with high human development but high ecological impact fall to the bottom of the SDI.”

“In this way, the SDI promotes a new vision for progress in the 21st century — one compatible with the ecology of our planet,” the site continues. “To succeed in terms of SDI, poor nations must significantly improve human development while keeping their ecological impact within planetary boundaries, while rich nations must maintain or enhance human development while significantly reducing their ecological impact down to sustainable levels.”

The index of 163 countries is based on SDI calculations for 2015, which is the most recent year of complete data. Other countries in and around the Caribbean basin which are measured by the SDI include Costa Rica, ranked second and Panama, ranked fifth.

Venezuela, Colombia and the Dominican Republic are ranked twelfth, thirteenth and fifteenth, respectively, with Belize at 27 and Trinidad and Tobago at 40.

“The SDI starts with each nation's human development score (life expectancy, education and income) and divides it by their ecological overshoot —the extent to which consumption-based CO2 emissions and material footprint exceed per capita shares of planetary boundaries,” SDI reveals. “Countries that achieve relatively high human development while remaining within or near planetary boundaries rise to the top.”

Over time Jamaica's position in the index has risen from 37 in 1990 to 22 in 2013 and then down by one point to 23 in 2014 and 2015. In 1990 Cuba was ranked third but has enjoyed the first place position since 2004.

A number of developed countries are ranked much lower on the index. Germany is at 130 while the United Kingdom is at 131. Canada is at 158 and the United States is at 159. China, which is a huge developing country, is at 100.

Bottom of the index at 163rd was Singapore.

According to the SDI website, the HDI does not factor in ecological sustainability. The top performers on the HDI, it claims, are fuelling the global crisis through “dangerously high levels of ecological impact”.

“First, HDI celebrates the very nations that are contributing most to climate change and other forms of ecological breakdown, in terms of their per capita emissions and footprint,” the SDI website points out.” In doing so, it promotes a model of development that is empirically incompatible with ecology.

“The second problem is related to the first,” it adds. “The countries of the global south suffer disproportionately from the negative impacts of climate change and ecological breakdown, with significant costs to human economies and living systems. Indeed, climate change is now beginning to reverse key development indicators in some regions, as agricultural yields decline and hunger rates rise. In this sense, HDI embodies a contradiction whereby the process of generating high levels of development in some nations constrains development — and even drives de-development — in other nations.”

The Morning Star publication illustrated the sharp contrast between rankings on the SDI and the HDI, also known as the ul Haq index after Mahbub ul Haq, the Pakistani economist who created it in 1990.

“Britain, ranked 14th in 2018's HDI, falls to 131st in the SDI; while the US, 13th in the ul Haq index, is 159th out of 163 countries featured in the new system,” the newspaper said.


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