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Former USSR: Region Ranks In Lower Middle Income Group For 1995

Washington, 8 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - The nations of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union generally were in the lower middle income group of nations in 1995, according to the World Bank, with an average gross national product (GNP) of $2,220 per person.

The newly-released World Bank Atlas and World Development Indicators for 1997 show that in 1995, by comparison, Luxembourg was the richest nation with a per capita income of over $41,000. The United States registered $26.980 per person in 1995, Germany had $27,500 per capita and New Zealand showed just over $14,000 per person. The lowest in the world were mostly in Africa, including Mozambique with a yearly income per person of $80, Ethiopia with $100 per capita, and Zaire with $120 per person in 1995.

The only nations in the Central European region which rose above the $3,000 per year minimum for upper middle income countries were Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia.

The bank says the transition countries in Europe and Central Asia suffered an average annual decline in their economies of 6.5 percent between 1990 and 1995.

Life expectancy at birth in most of the nations of the former Soviet Union also went down in 1995 compared to 1993, averaging between 65 to 69 years of age.

The Caucasus region is the exception, with Georgia holding steady at 73 years of life expectancy, Armenia dropping, but from 73 to 71 years, and Azerbaijan falling slightly from 71 to 70 years life expectancy.

Another measure, infant mortality, generally held the same or improved from 1993 to 1995 in Eastern Europe an d the former USSR.

The bank says that in Russia, infant deaths fell from 21 per thousand births in 1993 to 18 deaths per thousand in 1995. Turkmenistan, with an infant mortality death rate of 56 in 1993, cut that number to 46 deaths per thousand live births in 1995, while Belarus cut its infant mortality rate from 16 deaths per thousand births to 13 in 1995.

As a region, the World Bank says the countries of the former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe, still showed a larger number of doctors and nurses per person in the population in 1993 compared to even high income countries. On average, the bank says, there was one physician for 371 people and one nurse for 260 people in the region. That compares to an average of 522 people per physician in the major industrial and richer countries.

Overall, says the World Bank, while the countries in transition in Europe and Central Asia have suffered real reductions in income, the level of poverty is still nowhere near as bad as many other parts of the world, including South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia.

In 1993, about 3.5 percent of the population in East and Central Europe and the countries of the ex-USSR were at or below the bank's income poverty level of one dollar or less per day per person. The bank says that put about 14.5 million people at or below that level in 1993, much worse than in 1987, when barely more than one half of one percent was considered in poverty, or about 2.2 million people.

One area where the region of Europe and Central Asia was nearly equal to the rich countries was in tax revenue as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP). On average, tax collections in the region were 22.8 percent of GDP in 1995, which compares to 25.3 percent for the richer nations. Still, there is a lot of variation among nations. For instance, Russia recorded a much lower figure of 16.1 percent of tax revenues compared to its gross domestic product, while Romania had a much higher 26.3 percent and Bulgaria had 29 percent of GDP. The United States recorded tax revenues of only 19 percent of GDP in 1995 compared to Great Britain which had a startlingly high 33.5 percent.