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World Bank Offers New Yardstick to Measure Development

Press Release No:97/1296S
Contact: Phil Hay (202) 473-1796
Jannette Esguerra (202) 458-5204

WASHINGTON, April 6, 1997 The World Bank is launching a new publication of global development facts, figures, and analysis which it believes will become the yardstick for measuring success in alleviating poverty and improving people's lives.

The new publication, World Development Indicators 1997, draws on the expertise of dozens of international organizations such as the IMF, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization along with statistics from more than 200 economiesto offer the most comprehensive, and best documented, picture to date of the developing world's state-of-health.

"The new World Development Indicators, is an excellent example of global partnership in creating and sharing knowledge and in making knowledge a major force in development," says World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn. "It is an area where I see the World Bank playing an increasingly important role."

With more than 75 tables showing global patterns in education, current account balances, malnutrition, traffic congestion, and tax rates, World Development Indicators is a virtual encyclopedia of development issues. It is also the only public source that combines key economic information from major public and private organizations around the world and distills its findings into a comprehensive examination of modern development.

"World Development Indicators starts from the premise that development is about the quality of life," says Wolfensohn. "It places people and poverty reduction first, at the center of the development agenda, where they belong."


The World Development Indicators carries 14 tables on People that look at population trends, labor force participation, education, and health.

" With a global population of nearly 6 billion, there are now twice as many people as there were in 1970 the next 35 years will add another 2.5 billion, 90 percent of them in developing countries.

" Life expectancy has increased by nine years from 55 to 64 but not everywhere. In Norway, for example, a man can expect to live until he is 75; for his counterpart in Niger, life expectancy is 44.

" Infant mortality rates have declined from 107 per 1,000 live births in 1970 to 60 in 1995. In Cambodia, the rate is 108 and in the United States, 8.

" In Mali, girls, on average, attend one year of school. Their counterparts in the Philippines will go for 11 years and in Armenia, 14.

The Environment

The WDI reflects the Bank's concern with the quality of the environment and the impact of environmental quality on the welfare of people.

" In 1993, 24 percent of Peru's rural population had access to safe water; in Madagascar it was 10 percent.

" Energy consumption per capita in low- and middle-income economies is now equivalent to 740 kilograms of oil per year. The same rate in high-income economies is 5,100.

" The United States in 1994 produced 13,243 kilowatt hours of electricity for every man, woman, and child; India produced 423; and Togo 24.

Economic Growth

The World Development Indicators 1997 contains the World Bank's latest estimates of Gross National Product (GNP) per capita for 1995.

" The highest ranked country in 1995 was Luxembourg, with GNP per capita of more than $41,000. The United States was ranked 7th, with GNP per capita of $26,980.

" In 1995, the United States remained the largest economy in the world, with a total GNP of more than 7 trillion dollars. But the WDI identifies 10 "emerging giants" (ranked in order of GNP) of the developing world whose economies accounted for almost 19 percent of world output. These are: China, Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico, Argentina, Indonesia, Turkey, Thailand, and Pakistan.

" China, with GNP of more than $745 billion, Brazil at $585 billion, and India at $325 billion, led the list of emerging giants in terms of national economic output:

" At the same time, many smaller developing economies continued to show important signs of progress. Per capita GNP in Botswana, for example, was $3,020; this compares with $3,870 in the Czech Republic, and $8,210 in Greece. Moreover, at 7.3 percent, Botswana's average annual rate of growth since 1970 is second only to the Republic of Korea. Malaysia, with a 1995 GNP per capita of $3,980, recorded average annual increases of 4 percent; and Egypt, at $790, has increased at 3.7 percent over the past 25 years.

Countries ranked by GNP per capita in 1995

Top 5











Bottom 5











States and Markets and Global Links

The World Development Indicators provides a broad survey of the role of the public and private sectors and the impact of new technology on development. The WDI also provides data on the growing integration of the world economy.

Market Capitalization ($million)












" Stock markets are increasing in number and volume traded. The size of market capitalization in developing countries has increased from $390 billion to $1.5 trillion between 1990 and 1995.

" Countries with the highest levels of taxation (as a share of GDP) were Lesotho (44.4 percent), Belgium (43.7 percent), Croatia (43 percent), and the Netherlands (42.9 percent).

" Developing countries are increasingly important trading partners for the industrialized economies, accounting for 22 percent of industrial country export earnings.

" Low-income economies average 21 telephone lines per 1000 people; in high income economies the average is 524; but in some countries the waiting time to install a phone exceeds a person's lifetime.

" In Switzerland, there are 348 computers for every 1,000 people, in Colombia there are 16, and in Ghana, 1.2.

Released along with the World Bank Atlas and a sophisticated, interactive CD-rom, the Bank plans to release this new family of publications each year to act as a comprehensive guide to the dynamic and changing face of development and its role in the global economy.

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