Brazil, China, India getting healthier, wealthier while we decline: UN report – by Olivia Ward (Toronto Star – March 15, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Move over, Canada — and France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States.

A new United Nations Development Program report, “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World,” says the “global North” is losing the race with its economic competitors in the rising South at a head-spinning rate.

“For the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies — Brazil, China and India — is about equal to the combined GDP of the long-standing industrial powers of the North,” says the report, released Thursday. “This represents a dramatic rebalancing of global economic power.”

Canada itself has slipped from 10th to 11th place in the 2013 human development index: a composite of health, education and income figures. Although its overall performance has improved steadily since 1980, its progress in education slowed, and it was outpaced by Japan and Australia.

The top five ratings went to Norway, Australia, the U.S., Netherlands and New Zealand. When gender inequality is factored in, Canada drops to 18th place and the U.S. plummets to 42nd. Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland have the smallest male-female gaps in health, empowerment and labour market figures. With society-wide inequality accounted for, Canada ranks 13th.

Officials say the UN index’s complex rating system make it difficult to glean meaningful distinctions between countries that are closely matched. But the report’s most startling conclusions are about the South: the speed of its progress into the top echelons of economic power and the extent of its muscular influence on the world’s future.

The proof is in the figures.

In 1950, Brazil, China and India combined represented only 10 per cent of the world economy, and the Northern countries more than half. By 2050, the report says, the three powerhouse states will account for 40 per cent of global output, as production levels in the traditionally wealthy Group of Seven skid. Furthermore, the South will be competing with the North as a “breeding ground for technical innovation and creative entrepreneurship.”

That’s good news for countries that once had some of the worst poverty rates in the world — and for their trading partners in an increasingly globalized system. It also goes beyond gross domestic product, to the well-being of the South’s citizens.

Canada and other Western industrialized nations are lagging while Brazil, China and India advance in a “dramatic rebalancing of global economic power.”

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