The Human Development Index, Samoa and sustainable tourism

By Alexander Rheeney 30 September 2018, 12:00AM

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released its Human Development Index (HDI) a couple of days ago, heralding progress in Samoa, Fiji, Palau and Tonga due to their ability to maintain their positions in the High Human Development category.

Marshall Islands was included in the index for the first time. And Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, to round off the Pacific Islands, were seated at the other end of the scale and rated in the Low Human Development category.

What is the Human Development Index and why is it important to me as a Pacific Islander? Well, it is very important, as you and I can describe it as a measurement of our governments’ success or failures in managing the lives of their people in terms of their health, education and general standard of living. 

The UNDP, in this latest index, stated that the data it relied on to reach its conclusions is comprehensive. On the whole the recently released 2018 HDI concludes that “overall trend globally is toward continued human development improvements, with many countries moving up through the human development categories”.

Samoa’s consistency in maintaining benchmarks and progress in human development indicators in recent years is an achievement that would be the envy of other Pacific Island nations. Full credit should go to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP)-led Government. They have remained steadfast in terms of service delivery and focused on the priority areas of health, education, agriculture and infrastructure.

While the progress has been steady for Samoa and its peers, the HDI highlighted the need for the countries to address female representation in their respective parliaments.

“Mirroring progress made globally, the Pacific has made good progress in closing gender gaps in education. In four of the six Pacific Island Countries for which data is available, expected years of schooling for females is greater than males. 

“However, the Pacific Island Countries continue to have very few female Parliamentarians. Fiji, having the highest share at 16 per cent among the Pacific Island Countries featured in the report, falls well below the average for SIDS or for East Asia and the Pacific.

“The report highlights that a key source of inequality within countries is the gap in opportunities, achievements and empowerment between women and men. Worldwide, the average HDI for women is six percent lower than for men, due to women’s lower income and educational attainment in many countries,” said Bakhodir Burkhanov, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director and Head of Pacific Regional Policy and Programme. 

While women representation in politics became non-existent for countries such as Papua New Guinea, Samoa has again become a shining light in the Pacific in this area.

It passed constitutional amendments in 2013 that introduced a 10 per cent quote of women representatives into the Legislative Assembly. In the 2016 general election, 24 women out of 164 candidates ran for public office with four successfully getting elected to Parliament.

The four women MP’s victories activated the special clause in the Constitution for a 10 per cent minimum quota, which led to the next highest-polling woman candidate – Honorable Faaulusau Rosa Duffy-Stowers – to be elected. 

There is a lot to learn from Samoan success story, hence it would make sense that the region’s tourism industry representatives are making their way to Apia, to attend the South Pacific Tourism Organisation’s Board of Directors Meeting and Council of Tourism Ministers Meeting. 

Feedback from a lot of tourists – who fly into Samoa every week to enjoy all that Samoa has to offer – are quick to praise this nation for finding the right balance between offering a premium service and ensuring that the authentic Samoan touch in the services offered is retained.

They say they are overwhelmed by tourist numbers in other destinations such as Bali in Indonesia and Fiji, unlike in Samoa where you can still experience a touch of an island paradise. You only have to read our Dear Tourist pages every week to get a feel of what travelers from around the world are saying about this country and its people. 

There is no doubt the tourism industry in Samoa is benefiting from the Government’s investment in infrastructure over the years and a growing private sector. This, again, brings us back to the recently launched HDI and its findings on Samoa.

More investment in sustainable tourism development is the way of the future – governments that go down that path will only be giving their people more opportunities to empower themselves.

By Alexander Rheeney 30 September 2018, 12:00AM

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