KARACHI - The countries and regions of the world are becoming increasingly polarised in spite of their international commitments to fight poverty. The Basic Capabilities Index (BCI) 2009 was launched the other day by Social Watch, an international network of citizens organisations. According to the spokesperson, Most of the countries in the world are very far from reaching the social objectives which they are committed for 2015. Some 42 per cent of the countries have very low or critical values. The BCI is an annual monitoring report on the evolution of basic social development indicators. Three indicators are used to calculate the BCI, the percentage of children who reach the fifth year of primary school, the mortality rate among children under five years of age and the percentage of births attended by skilled health personnel. Unlike other international development indices, the BCI does not incorporate monetary income as one of its components: human capabilities are measured directly. The fight against poverty, as measured by the BCI, was already slowing down and stagnating before September 2008, when the global economic crisis struck. The social impacts of the crisis are not reflected in the 2009 index because social indicators are processed much more slowly than economic ones. The 2010 BCI will very probably show deterioration where today we have stagnant. The 2009 BCI shows that the countries in the most critical situation are in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The ten countries with the lowest BCI ratings are Chad, Afghanistan, East Timor, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Niger, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Nepal and Equatorial Guinea. On the other hand, there are some 60 countries that have reached values of more than 98 points on the scale, whose maximum value is 100. If a country reaches this BCI value, which we call 'acceptable, this means that it is able to provide the minimum essential social care for the entire population. But this is only a starting point for social development, not the finish line. The countries with values under 100 have, to a greater or lesser extent, situations of poverty that are an offence against human dignity. The higher levels tend to be occupied by the countries in the North and also in the South of the planet (such as the Southern Cone of Latin America and Australia,), while the countries in a band on either side of the equator have the lowest values. In Africa, whose average BCI is very low, this global pattern is repeated. As a region, Latin America and the Caribbean have a medium value. The regions with the lowest BCI ratings are South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Next, with a low average BCI level, come East Asia, the Pacific, If current trends continue, a large part of the world will not reach at an acceptable level in terms of satisfying the basic needs of the population by 2015, the deadline for meeting the millennium development goals. The more poor people are in a country the greater the effort that country must make to overcome poverty. There is a huge gap between the condition of life in the regions with high average BCI ratings (North America and Europe) and those in the regions with critical or very low levels (Sub-Saharan Africa). It is very unfair that the poorest countries not only have a long way to go but are also facing the steepest gradient. These countries are sometimes criticised for their lack of progress, but this ignores the fact that the assistance and trade opportunities that they were promised have never materialised. In a country in which 90 per cent of the children go to school the distance from the education goal is only ten points, so to reduce the number of number of children without education by half the government only has to increase the number of teachers and schools by 5 per cent. But in a country in which only 20 per cent of the children go to school the shortfall is 80 per cent. To reduce this by half, the government would have to triple the number of schools that are currently in existence and recruit three times as many teachers as it already has. And even if the government managed to do this, some 40 per cent of the children in the country would still be without education. On the other end of the scale, about half the countries in the world already have medium or acceptable BCI ratings. From 2004 to 2009 there was a very considerable increase in the countries with acceptable BCI levels. In the low, very low and critical categories the percentages of countries remained almost the same, which shows that the trend is for the world to polarise in this respect. If these trends continue, the millennium development goals will not be reached by 2015. In 2004 to 2009 period, Sub-Saharan Africa managed to rise from the critical to the very low level, but in 2015 it will still be the region that ranks lowest in the world on the BCI. By that date South Asia should have risen to join the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia at the medium level, while Latin America will have stagnated at the low level and the situation in Europe and North America will remain acceptable.