Report: "The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development"Thursday, November 4, 2010
Argentina, Chile regional leaders in human development, UNDP
Argentina and Chile are the Latin American countries with the highest Human Development Index (HDI), according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2010 Report, which shows that, despite the significant progress many countries have made, the region continues to register the greatest inequality rates in the world.
"Unfortunately, our countries are champions in inequality at a global level, although some countries, such as Brazil, Chile, and others have made progress," Heraldo Muñoz said, the UNDP director for Latin America, during the report's regional presentation in Montevideo, Uruguay.
"Our region is the most unequal in the world and it cannot expect more. Inequality has a negative impact on people, the economy, and society as a whole," he added, and continued: "Which is why we believe that inequality should be a political priority in the agenda of the region's countries."
"Although the HDI level for Latin American and the Caribbean has increased by a third since the year 1970, it's actually well below the world average," Muñoz warned. "We have countries with important achievements, but in the last 40 years, no country in the region has made it to the Top 20 with the best human development."
The leaders in the region, Chile and Argentina, are in the 45th and 46th places, respectively, followed by Uruguay (52), Panama (54), Mexico (56), Costa Rica (62), Peru (63), Brazil (73), Venezuela (75), Ecuador (77), and Colombia (79), all of them located within the high human development rank.
Those with medium human development are the Dominican Republic (88), El Salvador (90), Bolivia (95), Paraguay (96), Honduras (106), Nicaragua (115), and Guatemala (116).
No Latin American country was found to have low human development; however, Haiti, the poorest country in America, occupies the 145th place of a total of 169.
In the last 40 years, life expectancy in the region increased from 60 to 74 years, and school matriculation rose from 52 to 83 percent, but this progress hides great differences. For example, life expectancy in Costa Rica is similar to that of Portugal´s (79 years), but very superior to that of Haiti's (62 years).
"Inequality is an important obstacle for the full development of our countries," Muñoz assured. "Of the 15 most unequal countries in the world, 12 are in Latin America, and that is unacceptable."
He added that poverty "continues to be an immense challenge" in a region in which one of every 10 people still faces multidimensional poverty, whereas in Europe and Central Asia, this occurs in one out of every 33 people.
"We have made progress in reducing poverty, but this is not enough," he pointed out.
In this sense, Muños called to "create instruments that efficiently reach the poorest populations" and "strengthen the effectiveness of policies."
Titled "The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development," the report presented in several cities simultaneously, introduces three new indexes this year as a way to also measure inequality, gender equity, and poverty.
According to the new HDI adjusted for inequality (HDI-I), the leading country in the region is Uruguay (the least unequal, occupying the 41st place), in front of Chile (43), and Argentina (55). In any case, even though it is the "most equal in the region, Uruguay is still under the most unequal country in Europe," Muñoz emphasized.
In the meantime, according to the Gender Inequality Index, Costa Rica is the most equal in the region, occupying the 51st place, followed by Chile (53), Uruguay (54), and Argentina (60).
Regarding education, the UNDP highlights the progress made, but also affirms the gender gap "is still greater among older children that live in rural areas." An example is Bolivia, where 35 percent of girls and 71 percent of boys in rural areas go to school.
The report highlights the implementation of programmes in Latin America to transfer money to families with the condition that children to go school, such as the Bolsa Escola and Bolsa Familia in Brazil, Oportunidades in Mexico, and Chile Solidario in Chile.
However, it warns that "it is not possible to obtain good results with only these kinds of programmes."
According to Francisco Rodríguez, the investigation director, the report shows that "there isn't a significant correlation between economic growth and improvements in health and education, even during a long period."
Rodríguez pointed out to a group of journalists that "the report shows that there are different paths" to make progress in human development, "as opposed to their being a recipe that can be applied to all countries."