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December 8, 2006 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 306

Human Development Report 2006—References to the Middle East

December 8, 2006
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 306

Introduction

Since 1990, the United Nations Development Programme has been publishing an annual report on human development-- that is, the creation of an environment in which people can reach their fullest potential. MEMRI has reviewed these reports since 2001. [1]

The 2006 report, "Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis," [2] addresses the twin themes of water and sanitation, which it terms "the most powerful drivers for human development [because they] extend opportunity, enhance dignity and help create a virtuous cycle of improving health and rising wealth." (5) The issues of water and sanitation are issues of human rights.

The report draws a grim picture of the present world situation. At the start of the twenty-first century 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water and 2.6 billion people lack access to sanitation (33). In the Middle East 44 million people do not have access to clean water and 96 million do not have access to sanitation. The lack of clean water and sanitation are "destroying human potential on an epic scale." (27) Further, pressure for reform in the area of water and sanitation "has been conspicuous by its absence." (61)

No politician is apt to run on a platform that promises a toilet for every family as many families do not even have running water; indeed, many live in dwellings which are not structurally suitable for the installation of such facilities. Yet the report points out that, for example, in the case of Egypt, families’ access to flush toilets could reduce the risk of infant mortality by 23 percent.

A recent report by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) points out that water is becoming an increasingly "precious commodity" in the arid region of the Middle East, and, "as the population grows, the link between environmental degradation, water scarcity and conflict is becoming a mounting threat." The report lists Algeria, Djibouti, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen as countries that, by 1990, had experienced water scarcity. Other countries in the Middle East and North Africa such as Egypt, Iran, Libya, Morocco, Oman and Syria are projected to be water-scarce by 2025. [3]

Water Abundance vs. Water Shortage

Theoretically, there is enough water in the world to meet the demand of humanity. However water, like wealth, is unevenly distributed. As a result, about 700 million people in 43 countries "live below water-stress threshold." The fact that Canada has 90,000 cubic meters of fresh water per person provides no relief to water-stressed Yemen with 198 cubic meters of fresh water per person (135). In the Middle East, defined in the report as the "world’s most water-stressed region," the average availability of water is 1,200 cubic meters per person (135). The picture for the future is even more stressful. According to the report, average water availability in the Middle East and North Africa is projected to decline to 500 cubic meters per person by 2025; further, by then, 90 percent of the people in the region will be living in water-scarce countries (136). Water is power. The lack of it will increase the dependence of Middle Eastern countries on food exporting countries in the West and consequently, is likely to increase their sense of political impotence as well.

Water Shortage on the Palestinian Territories

The report estimates that, on a per capita basis, people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, have access to 320 cubic meters of water annually, "one of the lowest levels of water availability in the world and well below the threshold for absolute scarcity." The Israeli population, which is about twice the size of the Palestinian population, uses seven and a half times the amount of water used by the Palestinians. In fact, Israeli settlers in the West Bank use more water per capita than Israelis in Israel (216).

Any future settlement between Israel and the Palestinians must address the issue of water. The report recommends the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan as a model for Israel and the Palestinians (225). The agreement allows Jordan to store winter water in Lake Tiberias while at the same time it allows Israel to use, on a rental basis, a number of water wells in Jordan to irrigate Israeli agriculture.

Growing Water Demand

The demand for water has been increasing at a far greater rate than population. Over the past 100 years, the population has quadrupled while the use of water has increased by a factor of seven, partly due to growing urbanization where the pattern of water use differs markedly from that of rural living. But the production of food for growing population accounts for the greatest increase in water use. The UNDP report offers striking data: people have a minimum basic water requirement of 20-50 liters per day. However, it takes 3,500 liters to produce enough food for a daily minimum of 3000 calories; "producing food for a family of four takes the amount of water in an Olympic size swimming pool." Growing a single kilo [2.24 lbs] of rice takes 2000-5000 liters of water; producing a single hamburger takes about 11,000 liters--roughly the daily amount available to 500 people living in an urban slum without a household water connection (137).

Drawing and Replenishment of Water

In many countries in the Middle East, the water is drawn faster--in some cases, dangerously faster than it is replenished. Table 1 underscores the problem:

Table 1: Water Drawing and Replenishment

Country

Total water withdrawal as a share of total renewable water resources (%)

Total external water resources as a share of total renewable water resources (%)

Kuwait

2,200

100

Saudi Arabia

1,553

0

Libya Arab Jamahiriya

722

0

Qatar

547

4

Bahrain

259

97

Yemen

162

0

Oman

138

0

Israel

123

55

Egypt

117

97

Jordan

115

23

Reconstructed from Human Development Report 2006, p.210

Virtual Water Trade

In the Middle East and North African countries "virtual water trade" is an integral part of national food security strategies in water-stressed countries that increase their supply of water by importing cereals and other agricultural products and, hence, the water imbedded in them (150). Stated differently, by importing cereals countries save the water, often in shrinking quantities, they would otherwise use to produce their own cereals. Such use of scarce water resources would drive many countries into the equivalency of water bankruptcy in no time. Through "perverse subsidies" Saudi Arabia used oil revenues in 1980 to pump irrigation water from a nonrenewable fossil aquifer to grow water-intensive wheat and alfalfa in the desert. Production costs are estimated at four to six times the world price, not to mention ground water depletion (145).

Not so wealthy countries in the Middle East do not have the luxury to engage in "perverse subsidies" and must rely on the water-rich countries, like Canada, Australia, the United States and Russia, to supply them with their grains and even their beef. As the competition for water between a growing population and agriculture intensifies, it is certain that the issue will be settled in favor of the population, driving many countries in the Middle East into a growing dependency for their grains and cereals on countries, mostly democratic and liberal, for their survival. The "virtual" water trade could become a "real" threat to the security and independence of the importing countries. The clash of civilization may eventually hinge on a clash over water. To paraphrase a common refrain, "He who controls water will call the political tune."

Human Development Indicators

The report provides valuable indicators about human development in the world. The following are four composed tables that highlight some aspects of human development in selected Middle Eastern countries.

1. Human Development Index (Table 1)

Table 1 measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth; knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate and the combined gross enrolment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary schools; and a decent standard of living as measured by gross domestic product per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) US dollars. [4]

a. The sample countries fall into three categories: high (Israel, Kuwait, and U.A.E.); medium (Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia) and low (Syria and Egypt).

b. The rate of adult illiteracy remains high in four countries in the sample; Tunisia, Iran, Syria and Egypt. The report warns that the number of literate people is based on "self-reported data" which should be read with caution (277).

c.The most striking aspect of the table is that two oil rich countries, U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia are in the lowest range in terms of gross enrollment in schools. By contrast, Egypt which ranks #111 in the overall HDI is ranked #70 in terms of combined school enrollment. Most surprising is the case of Syria which is ranked #107 on HDI but #125 in school enrollment. It is surprising because Syria has always prided itself as the heart of the Arab culture.

Table 1: Human Development Index

HDI Value

Life expectancy at birth

Adult Literacy rate (% of ages 15 and up)

Combined gross enrollment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary schools (%)

GDP per capita (PPP US$)

#1 Norway

[0.965]

#1 Japan (82.2)

#1Georgia (100)

#1 Australia (113.2)

#1 Luxembourg (69,961)

#23 Israel

[0.927]

#9 (80.0)

#28 (97.1)

#25 (89.7)

#23 (24,382)

#33 Kuwait

[0.871]

#34 (77.1)

#40 (93.3)

#83 (73.5)

#35 (19,384)

# 49 UAE

[0.839]

#26 (78.3)

nab

#131 (59.9)

#24 (24,050)

#76 Saudi Arabia

[0.777]

#71 (72.0)

#84 (79.4)

#132 (58.6)

#45 (13,825)

# 78 Lebanon

[0.774]

#70 (72.2)

nab

#44 (83.8)

#90 (5,837)

# 86 Jordan

[0.760]

#76 (71.6)

#57 (89.9)

#58 (79.0)

#99 (4,688)

#87Tunisia

[0.760]

#57 (73.4)

#89 (74.3)

#72 (75.4)

#69 (7,768)

#96 Iran Islam. Rep.

[0.746]

#85 (70.7)

#85 (77.0)

#92 (72.0)

nab

#107 Syria

[0.716]

#56 (73.6)

#82 (79.6)

#125 (62.6)

nab

#111 Egypt

[0.702]

#94 (70.2)

#93 (71.4)

#70 (75.5)

#106 (4,211)

2. Economic Performance (Table 2)

a. The significance of purchasing power parity (PPP) referred to in the previous table is dramatically reflected in the size of GDP and GDP per capita. The differences between nominal GDP per capita and GDP per capita calculated at PPP vary as follows (from highest to lowest):

Egypt 288.1

Iran 208.5

Syria 179.1

Jordan 121.4

Israel 41.8

Saudi Arabia 32.1

In three other countries, but most noticeably in Kuwait, the nominal GDP per capital is higher than the GDP per capita (PPP). Stated in non-technical terms, one US dollar has a purchasing power almost three times as high in Egypt as in the U.S. but has a 14.1% less purchasing power in Kuwait.

b. The highest per capita GDP (PPP US$) was achieved in oil producing countries during the upsurge in oil prices in the 1970s and has since declined. It is most likely that the data is no longer valid in light of the dramatic increase in oil prices in the last couple of years which could not have been reflected in the UNDP report which covers available data through 2004.

Table 2: ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE

Israel

Kuwait

UAE

Saudi Arabia

Lebanon

Jordan

Tunisia

Iran

Syria

Egypt

GDP (US$ Billions) 2004

116.9

55.7

104.2

250.6

21.8

11.5

28.2

163.4

24.0

78.8

GDP (PPP US$ Billions) 2004

165.7

47.7

103.9

331.1

20.7

25.5

77.2

504.2

67.1

305.9

GDP per capita (US$) 2004

17,194

22,654

24,121

10,462

6,149

2,117

2,838

2,439

1,293

1,085

GDP per capita (PPP US$) 2004

24,382

19,384

24,056

13,825

5,837

4,688

7,768

7,525

3,610

4,211

GDP per capita annual growth rate (%) 1996-2004

1.6

0.4

0.5

0.1

3.7

0.5

3.2

2.3

1.5

2.5

GDP per capita highest value (PPP US$) 1975- 2004

25,959

30,205

48,529

25,314

5,837

5,339

7,768

8,679

3,772

4,211

GDP per capita year of highest value

2000

1975

1975

1977

2004

1987

2004

1976

1998

2004

3. Priorities in Public Spending (Table 3)

The most striking data in Table 3 is that 8 out of the 10 countries in the sample spend much more money on the military than on education. In descending order Saudi Arabia spends 332.0% more on the military than on education, followed by Kuwait, 292.6%, Syria 276.0%, Jordan 235.7%, Iran 145.1% and Israel and Egypt less than 30% each. On the other hand, Tunisia spent about twice as much on education than on military and UAE about the same percentage on both education and military.
Table 3: PRIORITIES IN PUBLIC SPENDING

Israel

Kuwait

UAE

Saudi Arabia

Lebanon

Jordan

Tunisia

Iran

Syria

Egypt

Public expenditure on Health

6.1

2.7

2.5

2.5

3

4.2

2.8

3.1

2.5

2.2

(% of GDP) 2003-2004

Public Expenditure on Education

7.3

8.2

1.6

n/a

2.6

n/a

8.1

4.8

n/a

n/a

(% pf GDP) 2002-2004

Military Expenditures

8.7

7.9

2.4

8.3

3.8

9.9

1.5

4.5

6.9

2.8

4. Technology: Diffusion and Creation (table 4)

a. Table 4 provides data on the enormous growth between 1990 and 2003 of vital means of telecommunications, including mainline telephones, cellular telephones and internet users. The growth in the use of cellular phones is phenomenal while the growth in the number of users of internet is substantial, but not across the board. The numbers for Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Egypt are low, although in the case of Syria and Iran the low number of internet users may reflect the totalitarian nature of the regimes in both countries which seek to keep their populations insular from outside influence.

b. Apart from Israel, expenditures as a percentage of GDP on R&D are either not available or apparently negligible. As a result, the number of researchers in R&D is also small or insignificant with the exception of Jordan which lists the number of researchers in R&D at 1,927, a number that is higher than that in Israel, and may have to be treated with a degree of caution.

c. The table clearly suggests that the area of diffusion and creation of technology in most Middle East countries remains highly undeveloped and there is much more to be done, and rapidly, if these countries would want to avoid falling even further behind in the high technology age.


Table 4: TECHNOLOGY: DIFFUSION AND CREATION

Israel

Kuwait

UAE

Saudi Arabia

Lebanon

Jordan

Tunisia

Iran

Syria

Egypt

Tel. Mainline (per 1000 ppl) 1990

349

156

224

75

144

78

37

40

39

29

tel. mainline (per 1000 ppl) 2004

441

202

275

154

178

113

121

n/a

143

130

Cellular subscriber (per 1000 ppl) 1990

3

10

19

1

0

[1]

[1]

0

0

[1]

Cellular subscriber (per 1000 pl) 2003

1,057

813

853

383

251

293

359

64

126

105

Internet users (per 1000 ppl) 1990

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Internet users (per 1000 ppl) 2003

471

244

321

66

169

110

84

82

43

54

Patents granted to Residents

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

18

n/a

n/a

(per million ppl) 2004

Receipts of royalists and license fees

74.7

0

n/a

0

n/a

n/a

1.8

n/a

n/a

1.4

(US$ per person)

R&D expenditures (%GDP) 2000-2003

4.9

0.2

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

0.6

n/a

n/a

0.2

Researchers in R&D

1,613

69

n/a

n/a

n/a

1,927

1,013

467

29

n/a

(Per million ppl) 1990-2003

Conclusion

The report draws a grim picture about the lack of clean water and sanitation in the world. The picture may even be grimmer if one considers the report’s warning that the data is not entirely reliable as many countries, for reasons of national prestige or for the absence of a reliable data collecting tools, are inclined to overstate the number of people who have access to clean water and sanitation. Often a purported new water pipe may not function or old pipes may fail to be maintained and may be allowed to decay (37).

The world is not running out of water but "many countries are running out of time to tackle the critical problems presented by water stress." For example, if all goes according to plan, the Arab countries could reach the UN target of water and sanitation in the year 2042 which is 27 years behind the original target established by the UN Millennium Development Goal. In the meantime, rural areas will continue to account for the water deficit (57).

The clash of civilizations may eventually turn into a clash over water as many countries in the Middle East will be increasingly dependent on their survival for cereals and grains imported from countries which represent the other side of the cultural divide. The power of the oil cartel may be tempered by the "virtual water trade."

*Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI's Middle East Economic Studies Program.

Endnotes:

[1] MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 104, “Human Development Report in the Arab World," July 24, 2002; MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 151 "The Failure to Establish a 'Knowledge Society' in Arab Nations: Arab Human Development Report," November 6, 2003; MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 219, “The Arab Human Development Report: An Appear for Openness and Freedom," April 29, 2005.

[2] United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2006. Unless stated otherwise, all page numbers in parenthesis refer to this report.

[3] UNICEF, Progress for Children - A Report Card on Water and Sanitation, Number 5, September 2006, p.16.

[4] A purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rate equalizes the purchasing power of different currencies in their home countries for a given basket of goods. A while back, the London weekly The Economist used the price of McDonald’s Big Mack to establish the PPP of the countries covered in the model.

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