When the Malaysian mainstream mass media blacked out reports about Malaysia’s ranking in the HDI and TAI, which was released worldwide early last week, it is a clear signal that the Malaysian government disapproves of the rankings and do not want it to be widely known by Malaysians.
There is no doubt that the Malaysian mainstream mass media would have given full coverage to the UNDP Human Development Report 2001 if Malaysia had good or just respectable placing in the HDI and TAI.
Parliament should not emulate the ostrich-like behaviour of the government in putting its head in the sand but should debate as to why Malaysia’s HDI not only trails behind developed countries like Norway, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Belgium, United States, Ireland, Netherlands, Japan, Finland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, France, United Kingdom, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and Italy - the top 20 nations - but even behind countries like Malta (No.30), Barbados (No. 31), Argentina (No. 34), Slovakia (No. 35), Hungary (No. 36), Uruguay (No. 37), Poland (No. 38), Chile (No. 39), Bahrain (No. 40), Costa Rica (No. 41), Bahamas (No.42), Kuwait (No. 43), Estonia (No. 44), United Arab Emirates (No. 45), Croatia (No. 46), Lithuania (No. 47), Qatar (No. 48), Trinidad and Tabago (No. 49), Latvia (No. 50), Mexico (No. 51), Panama (No. 52), Belarus (No. 53), Belize (No. 54), Russian Federation (No. 55).
Rankings by HDI and by GDP per capita can be quite different, showing that countries do not have to wait for economic prosperity to make progress in human development.
The HDI measures the overall achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development - longevity, knowledge and a decent standard of living. It is measured by life expectancy, educational attainment (adult literacy and combined primary, secondary and tertiary enrolment) and adjusted income per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) US dollars. The HDI is a summary, not a comprehensive measure of human development.
For the first time, the UNDP Human Development Report 2001 has introduced the Technology Achievement Index (TAI), which is a new measure of countries’ ability to participate in the network age and an indicator of a country’s technological achievements, including how well a country as a whole is participating in creating and using technology, and developing a technological skill base throughout the population.
Despite all the fanfare about the Multi-media Super Corridor and the government’s IT plan to “leapfrog” Malaysia into the information age in the past five years, Malaysia has not come up well in the TAI ranking, placed 30th out of 72 nations. This does not augur well for Malaysia’s IT future.
Parliament will be abdicating its responsibility as the highest deliberative chamber in the land if it does not focus and conduct a wide-ranging debate on Malaysia’s poor showing in the HDI and TAI in the UNDP Human Development Report 2001.