PAPUA New Guinea must invest in education and health to improve its status of human development, says United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country representative Dirk Wagener.
Wagener issued the challenge when presenting the global human development report for 2021/22 while emphasising the need for proper channels of investment.
A human development index (HDI), which was recently released along with the report, is a summary measure for determining human development in three major aspects: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent living.
Wagener said when the measurements started in 1990, PNG had made gradual progress on the HDI scale, with its current ranking being 156 out of 191 countries.
“If we look at the HDI, health and education are the two areas which are most lagging behind but are very basic things. The more educated you are, the more you will take part in shaping the future and the better opportunities you will have later in life,” he said.
“So PNG’s HDI in the last 30 years, has increased by approximately a little bit more than 50 per cent. Life expectancy has also increased but not by a lot and although the average years of schooling has doubled since 1990, it’s still quite a low figure compared to other Pacific Island countries,” he said.
“The better your kids will be educated, the better jobs you will get, the more your economy will grow.”
Wagener pointed out that PNG’s HDI had dropped in 2020, with minor changes compared to last year but the first time it had happened in the history of the country.
“PNG lost a little bit of the average life expectancy at birth, this may have something to do with an increased number of deaths during Covid-19 and the gross national income also decreased, affecting the indicator not to mention school attendance was very low,” he said.
“With so much uncertainty, I think there will be no shortage of either man-made or natural disasters going forward so the key advice to governments and key stakeholders is that we will need a massive investment in the country’s health and education systems.”
He gave the example of how a student in Fiji would stay in school longer on average for 11 years while in PNG only for five years when emphasising the fact that the government needed to invest in education.
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