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Astana, October 14: Kazakhstan has joined the club of countries with a High Human Development Index (HDI) says a report published by the United Nations Development Programme on October 5.

With an HDI of 0,804, Kazakhstan is placed 82nd out of the 182 countries ranked. Kazakhstan’s HDI grew steadily during the last 14 years at an average of 0.2% per annum.

The biggest factors driving Kazakhstan’s ratings are:

- a high literacy rate of 99.6% (10th place in relevant rating)

- the promotion of gender equality: taking into account the gap between the HDI for men and women, the difference between the Gender Development Index (GDI) and HDI for Kazakhstan is 0.2% (11th place). This is the best result for a Central Asian country.

The biggest drawback for Kazakhstan’s overall rating remains the relatively short life expectancy of 64.9 years. The reasons for this are:

- high mortality from heart and coronary diseases

- traumas (especially following road accidents)

- respiratory diseases.

Aggravating the situation are the unfortunate consequences of two environmental catastrophes which affected the country over the last fifty years: nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk nuclear site and the shrinking Aral Sea. However, the situation in this sphere is bound to change due to concerted actions taken by the Kazakh Government.

For example, Kazakhstan has adopted a programme called ‘Development of cardiology and cardiac care in the Republic of Kazakhstan’ allowing the detection of cardiovascular diseases at an early stage. The programme involves improving hospitals throughout the country. The budget for healthcare will also be increased substantially. According to the 2009-2011 national budget, 34 billion tenge (one US dollar equals 150 tenge) will be allocated for the provision and expansion of guaranteed free medical care in 2009; 47 billion tenge in 2010 - and 54 billion tenge in 2011.

Last year Kazakhstan introduced a law requiring drivers and front seat passengers to wear safety belts. This regulation has already reduced the number of fatal accidents.

In order to combat respiratory diseases, the authorities imposed a number of restrictions on the distribution of tobacco products, with the new Code of Public Health Care entering into force last week 5october 9). The Government imposed a total ban on smoking in public places and raised the drinking age from 18 to 21, in accordance with the standards of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

In addition to these measures, the rehabilitation of the Aral Sea region in partnership with the World Bank is already allowing Kazakhstan to improve the lives of people in the area.

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