Oman recorded the fastest progress rate in the non-income section of the Human Development Index of the 2010 United Nations Human Development Report.
The index measured 135 countries and compared health and education development between countries that started at similar points on the Human Development Index in 1970.
The report, titled "The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development" was released on November 7th.
Oman used its oil wealth to strengthen its education and health sectors, the report said. Omanis celebrated the news, as it coincided with celebrations of the 40th anniversary of Sultan Qaboos bin Said's assumption of power in 1970.
Salem al-Juhouri, a political analyst and head of the international department at the Oman Daily newspaper in Muscat, said the achievement is a result of sound public policy.
"This global achievement was not a surprise for many observers, because the effort expended through development plans since the 1970s was great, placing human development at the forefront in terms of education and health," he told Al-Shorfa.
A concerted effort was undertaken to expand education facilities and increase the number of students attending schools. The number of schools in Oman rose from three in 1970 to 1,040 in 2009.
The number of students in public education reached 531,393 in a country with a population of three million. Total expenditure on education between 1976 and 2009 amounted to $40 billion, according to a report issued by Economic Minister Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki in early November.
Health services also improved significantly with the infant mortality rate falling from 10% to one percent during the past four decades. Total spending on curative and preventative health services between 1970 and 2008 was $16 billion.
Improved public awareness about health was reflected in greater life expectancy rates, which rose from 49 years in 1970 to 72 years at present, according to the Oman Ministry of Health.
Other countries that made the greatest progress over the past four decades, however, such as Saudi Arabia, which ranked fifth, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, which ranked among the top10, face challenges in participation in public life and establishing accountability among officials.
Al-Juhouri said, "This point is not lost on the Omani leadership. It is one of the government's priorities to make officials be accountable to citizens, and Oman began this years ago through the elected Shura Council."
Sultan Qaboos warned of government corruption two years ago and asserted there would be relentless pursuit of violators. He stressed that progress must take place removed from personal interests, and the law would deter those deviating from the straight path.
Omani economic analyst Haider al-Luwati contrasted Oman of the 1970s with the present day.
"Many people know very well that Oman was one of the Arab states reeling from the lack of basic services before 1970, and its situation was very bad." He pointed to "the suffering of Omani women, who remained far removed from education until 1970," he said.
"Today, Omani women have come [to take their place at] the top in educational, health, cultural, diplomatic, military, sports, and other institutions," he added.
Egyptian economics editor Zakaria Fakri, a resident of Oman, said the shift might not be apparent to Omanis, especially the new generation, who do not see the difference between today and the past. He told Al-Shorfa that not enough time has passed "to attain achievements on such a scale."