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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UNDP Sees Bigger Economic Disparity

The wave of petrodollars flooding the country is spurring economic development but also leading to widening income disparities, including among different regions, the United Nations Development Program said in its annual human development index released Tuesday.

The report said that while economic growth had almost halved poverty rates in the vast majority of regions from 1999 to 2005, that growth had been lopsided with more-developed regions leaving others trailing far behind.

But basic public health issues also need to be tackled before the country's human development rises significantly, said UNDP research coordinator Natalya Subarevich, one of the report's authors.

"The biggest problems are still low life expectancy and the prevalence of tuberculosis," she said Tuesday at a presentation of the report, which this year focuses on regional development and the quality of life.

In one perhaps surprising finding, the report said natural resource-rich regions often lacked social infrastructure and had more social ills and health hazards than less-fortunate regions.

St. Petersburg and regions with higher average incomes, such as Samara, Irkutsk, Sverdlovsk, and Khanty-Mansiisk, had higher incidences of HIV/AIDS, suggesting that income growth has had little influence on adoption of healthy lifestyles, the report said.

The report recognized widespread progress in poverty reduction, with the percentage of those in poverty drastically falling between 1999 and 2005. In one finding, the report said two-fifths of the country's regions had less than 20 percent of their populations living in poverty.

One-quarter of the country's population lives in regions with a human development index above the national average, the report said. These include St. Petersburg and the Moscow, Tyumen, and Tatarstan regions.

Another critical area of improvement was registered in infant mortality levels, which had fallen to less than 10 cases per 1,000 newborns in one-third of the country's regions, the report said.

Yet while residents of the country's least-developed regions constitute only 6 percent of the population, they experience serious problems, the report said. Despite federal government efforts to boost the economy in the North Caucasus, republics in the Southern Federal District still account for the country's worst poverty and unemployment rates, the report said.

Russia's vast "middle zone," with two-thirds of the country's population, remains a problem area with scarce resources for development, the report said.

And in Moscow, the income of the wealthiest one-fifth of the population is 20 times the income of the poorest one-fifth, the report's authors said, adding that the richest regions also had the widest inequalities in income.