UNDP Report: Economic Growth Should Benefit Human Development in all Russia''s Regions

Moscow, 15 May 2007 – Today, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Russian Federation launched the Human Development Report in the RF for 2006/2007, ‘Russia’s Regions: Goals, Challenges, and Achievements’. It is the eleventh publication in a series of national human development reports started in 1995 by UNDP in cooperation with the Government of the Russian Federation. The new Report further elaborates the topic of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adapted for Russia and covered in NHDR 2005 and offers a comparative analysis of current human development issues and indicators used for their assessment. The Report emphasizes the diversity of regional development priorities and opportunities for the improvement of the quality of life, and provides examples of the most successful government programmes implemented at the regional level that contribute to the achievement of the MDGs adapted for Russia at the regional and national levels. Addressing the Report’s readers, Sergei Mironov, Chairman of the Federation Council, Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, wrote that “in today’s world economy many countries base their competitive advantages on quality of human capital. However, objective indicators and scientific studies show worsening of human potential in Russia over the last 15-20 years. The negative trend can be seen across the board, from education levels and qualifications to health and life expectancy. This entails a decline in living standards of our people, and it undermines prospects for economic development, which is the basis for solving social problems.” Authors of the Report make an attempt to analyze the situation and offer solutions for its improvement. The main findings of the Report are as follows: In 2003-2004, the Human Development Index (HDI) improved in the vast majority of Russia’s regions; however, HDI in more developed subjects of the RF grew faster, so the inequality between regions increased. Apart from Moscow and the Tyumen Oblast autonomous districts, Saint-Petersburg and the Republic of Tatarstan reached the level of developed regions (with HDI over 0.800) according to international HDI standards. Only about a quarter of the country’s population lives in the regions with HDI above the national average. Such regions have their own resources for social development and implement social policies more actively. Least developed regions experience critical problems, but their residents constitute only 6 percent of the country’s population, therefore support from the federal centre is sufficient to give them a substantial leg up provided that it is used more efficiently. However, it remains unclear how to advance human development in numerous regions of the vast ‘middle zone’, with two thirds of the country’s population and scarce resources for development. Mere redistribution of funds from the federal centre will not improve the situation as long as institutional mechanisms for stimulating regional development, including human potential, remain inactive. Regional MDG indicators show a complex balance of social development successes and problems in the regions. Economic growth contributed to almost halving of the poverty rate in Russia and improvement of regional indicators: while in 1999 only 4 percent of regions had poverty rates below 20 percent, by 2005 the share of such regions reached 40 percent. Income deficiency of the poorest strata decreased dramatically: in most regions it is only 5 percent of total income, although it still exceeds 10 percent in the five least developed regions. However, the higher the income level, the higher income inequality in a region tends to be: the income of the wealthiest 20 percent in Moscow exceeds 20 times the income of the poorest. This is a result of the low quality of economic growth and unbalanced benefits distribution. Modernization of reproductive behaviour and growth of budget spending on maternity and infant healthcare contributed to the reduction of infant and maternal mortality. Today, in about one third of the regions the level of infant mortality is less than 10 cases per 1,000 new-borns (2005) with regional disparity decreased. However, life expectancy in Russia remains low with growing regional polarization in life expectancy indicators. Life expectancy in the most developed regions, Moscow (71) and the Tyumen Oblast autonomous districts (68), is much higher than the country’s average (65). In the least developed regions life expectancy indicators remain very low: the Republic of Tyva – 56, Chita, Amur and Pskov oblasts – 59-60 years. An extremely high level of mortality among men – an acute gender issue in Russia – is the major reason for low indicators in this area. The dynamics of social diseases also have little dependence on economic growth. Decline in tuberculosis incidence rates is registered only in the European part of Russia where this problem is much less critical than in Siberia and the Far East, the regions with the highest levels of TB incidence and mortality in Russia. Here these indicators continue to grow due to social degradation (higher poverty and marginalization rates, high concentration of penitentiary institutions) and unfavourable climatic conditions. There is an inverse dependence between HIV prevalence and the level of economic development: HIV is widespread in wealthy regions, particularly those with high incomes (Samara, Irkutsk, Sverdlovsk oblasts, Saint-Petersburg, Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Area), rich in natural resources and lacking well-developed social infrastructure. Income growth so far has had little influence on adoption of a healthy lifestyle in the regions. Gender inequality remains evident in politics and income distribution. Higher income levels in a region tend to entail a larger gap between average wages of men and women and, vice-versa, this differentiation is minor in regions with lower income levels. Another problem is an extremely low representation of women in government: only one region in ten has a level of female representation in the parliament above 20 percent, while in about a quarter of regions this indicator is less than 5 percent or none. As a rule, there are more women in the parliament in bigger and wealthier regions.MDG-based assessment of social development in Russia’s regions demonstrates that social and regional differentiation in the country is growing. To tackle this problem the federal government needs to work more effectively in close cooperation with regions, local governance agencies, business and civil society. The major task of social modernization in Russia’s regions requires mobilization of all resources and increased interaction between state and society.* * *For more information please contact Victoria Zotikova, UNDP Communications Officer, at (+7 495) 787 21 15 or by e-mail victoria.zotikova@undp.orgRUSSIA’S REGIONS: FACTS AND FIGURES