Oman - Poverty and wealth

In 1970 Oman initiated a comprehensive sustainable development program and it was among one of the first developing countries to place a real emphasis on the social sector. The program was called Oman 2020 and, since its inception, it has achieved some of the fastest-ever recorded growth in the history of human development. In 1970 there was no formal education system in place apart from 3 primary schools in Muscat that had a maximum capacity of 900 boys. By the end of 1994, 920 schools had opened all over the country and approximately 450,000 students were enrolled in formal education of whom about 50 percent were girls. In 1999, 70 percent of all Omani children attended primary school. In addition to the improvements in education, there have been far-reaching improvements in life expectancy and infant mortality. Life expectancy has increased by 24 years from 47 in 1970 to 71 in 1997, and infant mortality has been reduced 10 times over from more than 215 per 1,000 live births to less than 18 in 1997.

Before the development program began, there were many health problems that were prevalent in Oman due to the poverty and the lack of education. One of the most serious diseases that afflicted more than half of all Omani school children was trachoma, a disease that leads to blindness. This disease is spread through the bite of a blackfly, which breeds in fast-flowing rivers and streams. When the fly bites, it deposits the larvae of a parasitic worm which moves rapidly through the body, causing severe eyesight damage and possible blindness when it enters the eyes. This disease has now been totally wiped out. Additional gains in social and health conditions have led to improvements in the sanitation system; almost three-quarters of all houses have clean running water and toilets that flush. The vast majority of homes have electric light, electricity, and gas with which to cook. The government provides pensions for the elderly and the disabled as well as widows, orphans,

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Oman 3,516 3,509 5,607 5,581 N/A
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Saudi Arabia 9,658 11,553 7,437 7,100 6,516
Yemen N/A N/A N/A 266 254
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Oman 22 8 25 13 21 5 7
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Saudi Arabia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Yemen 25 5 26 3 5 5 31
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

and divorced women. This massive investment in human capital was made possible by the revenues that the state collected from the oil industry. Without this income it is unlikely that Oman would have made such ground-breaking progress in achieving better standards of living for a large part of its population.

Although Oman serves as a good example for other less-developed countries, there is still much room for improvement due to the high income inequality. The female literacy rate is still less than half that of the male literacy rate, and the total fertility rate (the number of children the average woman will have in her lifetime) is 6.9, one of the highest in the world.

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