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Why Is Suriname Poor? Poor Planning and Unhealthy Dependence.
Suriname, one of the smallest countries in South America, is also one of the poorest. Nearly one out of every two people in Suriname are impoverished. Tucked between Brazil and Guyana and endowed with oil reserves, one may wonder: why is Suriname poor?

The most important answer to this question lies in Suriname’s exports. Economically, Suriname is heavily dependant on exporting commodities, namely oil and gold, for revenue. As market prices fluctuate, so too does Suriname’s economy.

Mining for said commodities is the main source of employment in the nation. Stagnant markets cause production to slow and unemployment to jump. From 2014 to 2015, Suriname’s unemployment rate climbed from 6.9 to 8.9 percent.

The country’s GDP decreased two percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2016—more than eight full quarters of economic contraction. A country is considered to be in a recession after just two.

Oil Dependence
After the crude oil price spikes during the global recession, crude supply increased as North America, and Russia exploited domestic supplies.

The sharp increase in supply, coupled with the plateauing of China’s demand for crude, depressed the global price. This led to a decrease in Suriname’s exports and public revenues. Couple that with the announcement that Alcoa, a major U.S. aluminum company, was ending its operations in Suriname after 100 years of activity—Suriname’s economy entered free fall.

In 2016, Suriname’s GDP plummeted to 2008 levels. In the same period, the U.S. added $4 trillion to its GDP, an average increase of 1.4 percent.

Currency Issues
In response to the recession, Suriname experimented with a number of monetary and fiscal policies. The Suriname dollar was devalued by 20 percent amid the drop in oil prices, was unpegged from the U.S. dollar and, by the end of 2016, had lost more than 46 percent of its total value.

Suriname also implemented austerity policies in last two years to reign in spending and raise revenue. As a result, the Suriname dollar inflated over 50 percent in 2016.

In regards to the question “why is Suriname poor?”, there are a few big takeaways:

  • The drop in global oil prices dealt a major blow to Suriname’s export-driven economy.
  • Suriname’s economy is in a two-year-long contraction. The unemployment and poverty rates have both increased.
  • The Suriname dollar has lost a great deal of value and purchasing power, hurting the country’s less-fortunate.

The short and mid-term economic forecasts for Suriname are bleak, according to economists. Economic contractions are expected to continue throughout 2017. However, the discovery of another offshore oil deposit has given the nation hope. With foreign investment and revenues from another oil project, Suriname might stabilize its economy, which will allow it to restructure to rely less on exports.

Thomas James Anania

Photo: Flickr

Lessons in the Causes of Poverty in Guyana
In this age of development, many small countries look toward a future of economic growth and a higher quality of life. With the level of cooperation among states increasing (e.g., the Sustainable Development Goals), the possibility of eradicating extreme poverty grows more and more realistic. However, the number of smaller states is also increasing. Smaller states are often the most vulnerable to poverty and slow growth, and Guyana is no exception. The causes of poverty in Guyana are complex, but taking the time to learn about them can assist in creating solutions for the future.

Guyana is a country in South America, north of Brazil and east of Venezuela. A small nation, Guyana’s population only stands at 773,300 people, but over 50 percent of citizens currently live abroad. The nation formerly belonged to the British but won its independence in 1962. As a result, Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America and has many ethnic differences among its people.

Like any country with limited resources, the available resources have to provide for more people than they were intended to. Combined with weak infrastructure, the situation results in weak education and healthcare providers. This has resulted in what is known as a “brain drain,” where the most educated people leave the country for better opportunities. Although these are a few of the causes of poverty in Guyana, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Economic Causes
The economic causes of poverty in Guyana revolve around the country’s lack of resources. The country depends on agriculture and extraction of resources. Because it can only export food products, especially sugar, and some natural resources, it imports most of its goods. The country has a GDP of $3 billion, but the country is heavily in debt to other countries. Poor policies toward business and excessive spending have also contributed to Guyana’s 35 percent poverty rate. However, Guyana’s GDP does show a small positive increase.

Social Causes
One of the after-effects of British colonial rule in Guyana is the presence of many racial groups brought to the country during colonialism. Demographically, Guyana is comprised of primarily East Indians at 40 percent, black people at 30 percent, people of mixed race at about 20 percent and the other 10 percent made up of indigenous peoples and other races. African slaves were first brought to the country to work sugar plantations; after abolishing slavery, Indian indentured workers were brought to the country to work in the plantations. Because of this, ethnic tensions exist between the two large groups. The tensions contribute to the fractured political state in Guyana.

Political Causes
Politics can illustrate economic grievances in the country, as well as tensions in the country between different groups. The government of Guyana has had problems in the past with corruption, as well as issues with one party controlling most of the power. Many citizens vote along ethnic lines, but with the elections of 2015, there has been a small shift towards unity. In 2015, Guyana elected David Granger, a member of a multi-ethnic party, president. The new administration looked toward stopping the corruption in government that contributed to the current state of the economy.

The causes of poverty in Guyana, like any country, are complex and deep-rooted. Understanding and looking for solutions to poverty in Guyana can help lead to solutions for the rest of the world. With the political shifts in Guyana, it has the opportunity for economic growth and increases in its quality of life and the well-being of its citizens. The developments in this country have the potential to help the entire world in the fight against poverty.

Selasi Amoani

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South AmericaThe regions of Central and South America, in addition to the Caribbean Islands, collectively comprise what is currently recognized as Latin America, which is home to a growing population of roughly 637.6 million inhabitants. Of the three, the twelve nations of South America comprise the majority, or about 66 percent of that population. Despite all of these countries having experienced economic turmoil, political instability and social injustices, as a whole, the issue of hunger in South America does appear to be improving.

Since 1991, hunger in South America has seen significant declines. The largest of these has been Bolivia, which had 38 percent of its population without sufficient access to food in 1991. As of 2015, it had managed to reduce this number to 15.9 percent. Other countries have also made significant strides, such as Peru, which reduced its percentage of hunger from 31.6 in 1991 to 7.5 percent in 2015.

The basis for these accomplishments was established after Latin America adopted a U.N. Millennium Development Goal in 2000. The goal was to cut hunger in half in South America and its other regions by 2015, according to a State of Food Insecurity in the World report released by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. The region fortunately accomplished this goal, and while South America still has the largest proportion of undernourished people to its population, it was able to do this at a quicker and more effective rate than Central America or the Caribbean Islands.

One reason it was likely able to do this is that a handful of countries in South America are major agricultural producers and exporters. Brazil, for example, uses 31 percent of its land for crops; the country mainly grows sugarcane, but they also are dominant producers of coffee, bananas, mangoes, coconuts, papayas and oranges. Additionally, they rank second behind the U.S. in terms of total beef production. Similarly, Argentina is also a large beef producer, and Ecuador is a dominant producer of bananas.

In fact, due to its current production levels and untapped resources, economists and agricultural experts have speculated that Latin American countries will have a decisive role to play in the coming decades when it comes to global food production, something that could certainly play to their advantage. As of 2015, Latin American food imports accounted for a mere four percent of food imports worldwide. In contrast, their food exports accounted for 16 percent of food exports worldwide.

However, there are still tens of millions of people experiencing hunger in South America today. The existence of such a problem reflects that South America’s issue is not that it lacks sufficient food resources, but that it lacks adequate methods of distributing and allowing access to these resources. This is typically reflective of a larger, systemic problem of inequality. However, if resolved, it could improve the continent’s ability to produce and distribute these resources at a rate that would allow its countries to not only be dominant economic players in the international community, but also to take care of their own citizens simultaneously.

In a world whose population is estimated to reach nine billion by 2050, and whose food demands are expected to be 60 percent higher than they are today, it is critical that Latin America, and more importantly South American governments, establish economic reform that would allow for more equal food distribution. By doing so, they could then benefit from and play a major role in assisting future food shortages across the globe.

– Hunter Mcferrin

Photo: Flickr

Why is Guyana Poor
With a population of 758,000, Guyana is the third smallest country in South America. It is at once considered a middle-income country and the third poorest in the Western Hemisphere. So why is Guyana poor?

Tense History and Natural Riches

Guyana has been ruled by the Dutch, the French and the British. It became an official British colony in 1831 and won its independence in 1966. Since then, the country has faced tensions between its African and Indian populations. These cultural divisions have caused political instability and corruption.

In 2015, former army general David Granger won elections and ended the rule of the Indian-dominated People’s Progressive Party. Granger’s goal has been to end corruption and racial divisions. He formed a multi-ethnic coalition, Afro-Guyanese Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change.

Guyana has one of the lowest deforestation rates in the world. Tropical rainforests cover over 80 percent of Guyana, and its agricultural lands are fertile.

Eighty-three percent of Guana’s exports are natural resources, including sugar, rice, gold, bauxite and timber. While offshore oil also shows economic potential, it has also revived border disputes with Venezuela.

A Fluctuating Economy

Guyana’s economy has shifted between strong periods of growth and impending disaster. In 1982 Guyana nearly faced an economic collapse. The country then saw some recovery from IMF-backed economic reforms. Guyana has since privatized many state-owned industries, which has led to new investments and more jobs.

Guyana’s economy was thriving during the mid-1990’s, growing at an annual rate of more than six percent. In 1998, economic growth stalled due to drought, falling commodity prices and political uncertainty. Growth was halted until 2005 and then increased until 2008 when world demand collapsed. Starting in 2009, the economy showed signs of growth at an annual rate between 3 and 5.5 percent.

The People Facing Poverty

The most recent poverty survey in Guyana was in 2006. The survey revealed that 36 percent of its people live in poverty and that 18 percent live in extreme poverty. The per capita income in 2015 was $4,090. Guyana’s currency is the Guyanese dollar. The exchange rate equals 206.55 Guyanese dollars for one U.S. dollar.

Children and indigenous people are the most likely to experience poverty. In 2006, UNICEF reported that 47.5 percent of children under the age of 16 in Guyana were living in poverty. Young adults between ages 16-25 are the second most affected, with a poverty rate of 33.7 percent.

Poverty levels vary by region. Rural coastal communities are the most impacted, followed by urban areas and the rural interior. Thirteen percent of people in urban areas are considered poor. In rural areas, 22.5 percent are considered poor, nearly doubling the urban percentage.

Why is Guyana Poor?

The poverty rate in Guyana is a case of contradictions.

Guyana has a growing economy and an abundance of natural resources. While this seems to suggest prosperity and jobs, the youth unemployment rate is over 30 percent. Current estimates are closer to 40.

Education is another factor that contributes to why Guayana is poor. The country has one of the highest reported literacy rates in the Western Hemisphere. From 2008-2012, youth ages 15-24 had literacy rates of 93.7 percent for females and 92.4 percent for males. However, the functional literacy rate is considered low, due to poor quality education, teacher training and infrastructure.

According to the World Factbook, Guayana has one of the highest emigration rates in the world. Over 55 percent of Guayana’s citizens are residents of other countries. More than 80 percent of citizens with higher education emigrate, causing a deficit of skilled workers, especially in healthcare. In addition to a lack of professionals, Guyana’s healthcare sector also suffers from a lack of medical resources.

Hope for Sustainable Growth

Guyana has the potential to reduce its poverty level. One of the first steps is to update the 2006 poverty measurements. UNICEF recommends that Guyana adopt methods to monitor poverty that takes various ages, regions and ethnicities into consideration.

Guyana has signed onto to Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty by 2030.

Christiana Lano

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in UruguayUruguay is an upper-middle income country with a population of 3.444 million people. The country is located on the coast of South America between Brazil and Argentina. Like in many other countries, noncommunicable diseases have topped the list of common diseases in Uruguay.

1. Cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular diseases constitute 30.6 percent of deaths in the country. Ischemic heart disease is the most common form of cardiovascular disease. Risk factors include unhealthy weight, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, unhealthy eating habits, smoking, stress and lack of exercise. In Uruguay, 56.6 percent of the population is overweight or obese, 29.2 percent have high cholesterol, 30.4 percent have hypertension and 5.5 percent have diabetes. Most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.

2. Neoplasms

Cancer makes up 24.8 percent of deaths in Uruguay. For men, the most common cases of cancer are lung cancer (45.32 percent of cases), prostate cancer (22.13 percent) and colorectal cancer (11.37 percent). For women, the most common cases are breast cancer (22.74 percent), colorectal cancer (12.65 percent) and lung cancer (6.43 percent).

3. Respiratory diseases

Respiratory diseases account for 9.2 percent of deaths in Uruguay. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the most common respiratory disease in the country. COPD is caused by breathing in smoke, dust and chemicals. Smoking is a major risk factor for respiratory diseases as well as lung cancer. About 29.7 percent of adult males and 19.1 percent of adult females smoke. Additionally, 22.9 percent of adolescents ages 15 to 18 smoke. Secondhand smoke is another risk factor, and roughly 11.8 percent of adults are exposed.

In 2006, Uruguay passed a smoke-free policy that mandated public facilities and workplaces be smoke-free. This lead to a 26 percent decrease in hospitalization for respiratory diseases between 2006 and 2012. There has been a significant reduction in asthma and pulmonary infection. However, COPD has not had the same decrease.

4. Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Dementia is a major cause of death and disability and most common in the elderly. About 4.03 percent of the population has dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia. Between 40,000 and 50,000 people in Uruguay have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Understanding and further research of these common diseases in Uruguay can aid in the fight against poverty.

Francesca Montalto

Photo: Flickr

Latin American FarmersIn recent years, the nutrient-rich superfood – quinoa – has emerged as a strong competitor for space on grocery shelves. Though the nutty grain certainly has its place in high-end grocery stores such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, few consumers know that quinoa’s popularity boom has been critical in alleviating poverty for farmers in Latin America.

Quinoa is native to the Andean region of South America, and is known there as the “mother of all grains.” The hardy plant thrives there despite extreme altitude and high-risk climate conditions. It has been shown that quinoa can also thrive in a variety of Asian, North American and European climates – though none of these have seen the benefits as much as Latin America.

Countries such as Ecuador and Peru are some of the top exporters of quinoa, which is grown primarily by small-scale farmers in mountainous regions. As the grain has gained popularity and reputation as a superfood, farmers in these lower-income regions have seen a higher demand for their production. In such a reliable market, growing quinoa helps previously vulnerable Latin American farmers achieve a more steady income. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has declared quinoa a key component in global food security, for both present and future generations.

In Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador – the three major Latin American exporters of quinoa – the area of land set aside for quinoa cultivation has more than doubled within the last 30 years. Imports to the U.S. from Latin America hover around an astounding £70 million annually. Not only have Latin American nations started selling more quinoa to high-income nations, but they have started selling it at a far steeper price. In between the years 2006 and 2013, the price of quinoa around the globe tripled. Such a lucrative market is clearly beneficial for farmers in these areas of the world.

Historically, demand for raw goods like quinoa has led to the exploitation of low-income countries and only corporate interests have seen real benefits. However, studies have proven that this is not currently the case. The rural region of Puno, where 80 percent of Peru’s quinoa comes from, has seen enormous economic growth and improved welfare as a result of the superfood craze. Not only that, but despite the dramatic price increases, studies have found that people living in communities where quinoa is part of the traditional diet can still afford to eat the grain at similar or even higher rates.

In Puno, households cut back on less nutritious, high-fat foods in order to accommodate the price increases on quinoa; as a result, their health improved. The health benefits of quinoa serve to empower rural poor in Latin America, as well as other impoverished regions around the world. Bolivia declared 2013 the “Year of Quinoa” because the sustainably-grown grain is incredibly nutritious. Quinoa is the only plant food containing all essential amino acids, vitamins, trace elements and no gluten, making it the perfect base for an affordable, nutritious diet. It is also high in fiber and lysine.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has declared quinoa a key component in global food security, both currently and in the future. As Latin America maintains a strong monopoly on quinoa, it is increasingly helping its farmers live healthily and sustainably – and will surely continue for years to come.

Kailey Dubinsky

Chile's Level of PovertyThe number of people living below the national poverty line in Chile has varied throughout the years. This number currently stands at around three million citizens, whereas the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day has successfully reached its lowest point of 0.9 percent of the population.

Clearly, Chile’s level of poverty has fluctuated, especially seeing as how Chile was once considered to be one of the richest countries in Latin America. During this time, the country achieved the title of the first South American member of the OECD, a club mostly consisting of prosperous countries.

Poverty in Chile is often overlooked due to the lack of social equality, according to human rights expert Professor Philip Alton. While Chile’s anti-poverty programs are abundant, the middle class seems to be their primary focus, and those who are less fortunate are overlooked.

Alton calls attention to Chile’s tendency to participate in the exclusion of particular groups of people, contributing to its issue of poverty. According to Alton, “Efforts to eliminate extreme poverty in Chile cannot succeed without a concerted focus on the situation of indigenous peoples.” As with many other countries, the solution to ending poverty in Chile relies partly on spreading awareness of marginalization and privilege, as well as giving the lower class more attention and tools for success and not merely focusing on the middle class.

To put these solutions into action, the General Law of Ministries – now known as the Ministry of Finance, which formed in 1927 – has developed plans based on the roots of Chile’s level of poverty. The Ministry of Finance’s goal is to focus on long-term economic growth, rather than simply tending to the “right now.” Its mission is to create a stable economy that benefits all citizens of Chile, but especially those who are most likely to struggle with money.

The economic policy section of the Ministry of Finance is responsible for the awareness of problems within Chile’s economic system, as well as providing solutions to these issues. This helps them to prepare the national budget and contributes to bettering the community socially.

With the implementation of these kinds of plans as well as spreading awareness of poverty-causing issues, there is much hope for the poorest citizens of Chile. A better economy in Chile’s near future is looking to be promising, which will surely have positive effects on the poverty rate as well.

Noel Mcdavid

Photo: Flickr

Education in PeruA republic which first gained its independence in 1821, Peru prides itself on its continual promotion of education. Education in Peru has seriously benefited from 1996 government reforms which ensured free and compulsory education for all students between ages 5 and 16. In fact, continual reform led to the establishment of the National Superintendency of University Higher Education (SUNEDU) in 2015; this organization seeks to improve quality standards for higher education.

As a direct result of the emphasis on education, Peru’s adult literacy rate has risen from approximately 40 percent in 1940 to beyond 90 percent in 2005. In fact, in 2014, the primary school completion rate stood at 95.9 percent, a significant increase from 63.8 percent in 1970.

In particular, Peru continues to prioritize the education of women and vulnerable peoples. Since 2000, there has been minimal difference in the enrollment ratios between boys and girls: in fact, while 76.2 percent of school-aged boys were enrolled in school, 77.5 percent of school-aged girls were enrolled. Similarly, the Peruvian branch of CARE, an organization operating in 94 countries to implement sustainable change, empowers Peru’s most vulnerable groups, including women, indigenous people and rural populations.

Beginning with grade one, education in Peru grants students the opportunity to obtain primary, secondary, vocational and tertiary education. Higher education requires three years. The oldest university is the Universidad Nacional Major de San Marcos. Founded in 1551, the university prides itself on prioritizing social responsibility, creating professional leaders and emphasizing sustainability and environmental protection. In fact, the university offers courses in health sciences, medicine, veterinary studies, pharmaceutical studies, engineering, natural sciences, the humanities and more.

Clearly, education in Peru has continued to thrive over the course of the past few decades. However, significant funding efforts and economic growth play a crucial role in securing educational opportunities for students throughout the nation. Therefore, it is incumbent upon world leaders to provide support for Peruvian education in order to ensure that both the nation and its students succeed.

Emily Chazen

Disability in BoliviaPeople with disabilities are the most discriminated against, marginalized and disadvantaged social group in Bolivia. The enrollment rates for children with disabilities in Bolivia are relatively low, with only 38 percent of disabled children attending school.

In Bolivia, a nation in central South America, nearly half of the population is under the age of 18. Access to primary education is almost universal, as 95 percent of Bolivians aged 6 to 11 are enrolled in school.

The opportunities for Bolivian children with disabilities are limited. Teachers and families lack the specialized training to care for and teach disabled children, so they seldom receive the education and medical attention they deserve.

Embracing Disability in Bolivia is an organization that addresses the need for an educational system that accommodates children with disabilities. The annual Embracing Disability in Bolivia conference works with Bolivian churches, schools, social service agencies and families to create schools that provide accommodations and services for children with special needs.

At the first annual conference in 2013, the sessions’ subject areas included: general information about the term ‘disability’; attitudes toward people with disabilities, behavioral disorders and health conditions related to disabilities, the best practices for educating children with disabilities, accessibility and transportation for disabled students and professional training for disabled graduates.

In 2014, the Embracing Disability in Bolivia conference expanded upon its initial set of subject areas to include topics such as funding and advocacy.

Training sessions for teachers and families and interactive sessions for attendees to share personal stories are also featured. In a 2015 session, mothers talked about their experiences and the difficulties they encountered while caring and advocating for their children with disabilities.

Each year, Embracing Disability in Bolivia finds new ways to expand and improve its annual conference. At the 2017 conference, Embracing Disability in Bolivia plans to provides new insights, information and opportunities to help integrate more Bolivian children with disabilities into mainstream education.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate of Venezuela
Venezuela, once expected to be one of the richest countries in South America, has been crippled by socialist dictators and now suffers from widespread poverty. In fact, 82% of the population lives in poverty.  With the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela’s economy has become solely dependent on oil.

Venezuela has relied on high oil prices to bolster their exports and pay for importing basic goods, including food and medicine. However, with the price of oil dropping dramatically in the last few years, Venezuela’s economy has taken a major hit and caused drastic inflation. As inflation skyrocketed and political turmoil brewed, investors and businesses drained out of the country.

Currently, Venezuela leads the world with the highest inflation. In December of 2016, it reached a high of 800 percent inflation and has not significantly decreased since. According to the LA Times, it cost $150 to buy a dozen eggs in Venezuela in 2016. This hyper inflation has caused Venezuela’s currency, the Bolivar Fuerte, to depreciate. This has caused the poverty rate of Venezuela to jump to more than 80 percent.

 

Poverty in Venezuela

 

The face of poverty in Venezuela is also changing. With such a staggeringly high poverty rate, poverty now affects citizens with degrees who cannot find jobs and more urban people, in addition to the already rural poor.

Long lines at supermarkets have developed as people seek the most basic and necessary means of survival. According to CNBC, Venezuelans are eating two or fewer meals a day and around three-fourths of the population have watched their weight decrease throughout the years.

In 2016, President Nicolas Maduro increased the minimum wage by 40 percent. With inflation, this means that citizens who receive minimum wage earn just $67 a month. The explosive poverty rate and lack of proper government response have prompted protests, as this issue is now being seen as a clear violation of human rights.

However, opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez, his wife, Lilian Tintori and Capriles Radonski acknowledge the situation and have been fighting for a better Venezuela. A Venezuela with democratic power, basic goods and luxuries everyone can afford, a Venezuela with jobs for everyone, lower crime rates and better health care.

The high poverty rate of Venezuela has reached the attention of the world. Raising awareness has been part of finding hope for Venezuela. The hashtag #SOSVenezuela has been used over the last few years to protest corruption and has acted as a rallying cry to bring global attention to the people affected by Venezuela’s dire political situation.

Francis Hurtado

Photo: Google