The UN's annual A-to-Z of global wealth, poverty, health and education highlighted in its 20th anniversary edition that despite "growth surges" in the Asia-Pacific region, it is becoming ever more difficult to break into the rich club of nations.
Oil-rich Norway -- with its 81.0 years of life expectancy, average annual income of 58,810 dollars and 12.6 years of schooling -- has now topped the Human Development Index (HDI) for all but two years since 2001.
Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Ireland took the following places in the top five. Zimbabwe came bottom of the 169 nations ranked, behind Mozambique, Burundi, Niger and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Zimbabwe, where in stark contrast life expectancy is just 47 years and per capita income 176 dollars, has come bottom of the table for the past five years.
DR Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe have seen their HDI value fall below 1970 levels in the four decades since, said the study.
"These countries offer lessons on the devastating impact of conflict, the AIDS epidemic and economic and political mismanagement," said UNDP administrator Helen Clarke, the former New Zealand prime minister.
Now, I understand that Ms. Clarke is referring to the reasons why those countries' HDI levels have fallen since 1970 and is not really commenting on how they got there in the first place, but isn't the more trenchant lesson on the devastating impact of being colonized by a European nation? I wonder what the HDI level would be for an aggregate of all peoples living in North American Native reservations?