Archive for Evo Morales

20080711 – Peru’s Economic Model and Poverty Reduction: Is It Working?

Posted in 3 Cables with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2009 by Farid Matuk

The relationship between Bolivia and Peru has deteriorated rapidly over the last year, in part because of disagreements on foreign trade issuess. Recently, Peruvian President Alan Garcia and his Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales, engaged in personal attacks which served to increase tensions between the two Andean nations. On July 2nd, Garcia attacked Morales by saying the latter was jealous of Peruvian economic growth. Maybe Garcia has a point in observing that Peru’s economic growth is more robust than Bolivia’s, but economic growth is not necessarily the ultimate objective for a country; more important may be the satisfaction of its citizens, which in Peru is trending downward because of growing inequality.

In its chronic struggle against poverty, Latin America has experimented with various economic models. These have included the neoliberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, which have led to increased inequality. Some see neoliberal failures as responsible for the leftist wave that has spread across the region. Peru, however, is one of the two countries in Latin America that have not been tempted recently by solutions calling for the abandonment of the neoliberal development model.

The Peruvian model has produced an exceptional economic growth over the last five years. In 2007, Peru’s GDP growth rate was more than eight percent. The following year, the U.S. ratings agency Fitch gave Peru an investment-grade rating, meaning that after thorough analysis of recent economic trends, the agency now considers Peru a safe and hospitable investment venture.

Profitable policies, but largely for the elite
Unfortunately, as the country’s economy grew, so did its inequality. This trend is especially evident in contrasting Peru’s coastal region with the Andes, with most of the increase in personal income being concentrated in Lima and other coastal urban areas. This can readily be seen in the luxurious beach clubs to the south of Lima, which epitomize the often fabulous wealth of the Peruvian elites. In contrast, Peru’s National Statistics and Information Institute (INEI) recently reported that rural highlands were the least succesful areas in reducing poverty during 2007. Many communities here still practice subsistence agriculture and suffer from extreme poverty, even though the region is rich in mineral resources – Peru’s main export.

During the Alejandro M. Toledo presidency (2000–2005), Peru’s Gini coefficient increased from 49.8 in 2000 to 52 in 2003, demonstrating a considerable rise in inequality. The significance of this injustice is not just statistical or ideological, because increasing economic inequality inevitably leads to public dissatisfaction, which in turn contributes to the country’s instability. Public dissatisfaction with uneven growth was manifested in Toledo’s approval ratings, which were the lowest in South America in 2004. This apparently has been recognized by the new president, Alan Garcia, who announced in May a budget increase of S./ 203 million (around $70 million) for the social program ‘Juntos’ which originally was launched by Toledo in 2005.

The ‘Juntos’ program: squandered genius?
The ‘Juntos’ program provides subsidies to poor families on the condition that they regularly send their children to schools and health centers. ‘Juntos’ is an attempt to recreate programs taken from Mexican and Brazilian models, which were designed to increase literacy rates and decrease economic inequality. Unfortunately, objective conditions in Peru make this program unlikely to succeed, because the nation’s primary education and healthcare systems are among the most inadequate in the world. Additionally, the program has targeted urban areas and neglected rural regions, which are most in need of government assistance.

It would not be surprising if ‘Juntos’ does not fulfill its purpose because Lima has proven extremely innefficient at implementing social programs in the past. The ‘Vaso de Leche’ effort in the 1990s failed to achieve its goal of reducing malnutrition in five-year-old children, even though it was the most widespread program of its kind in the country. Such examples reaffirm the challenge that would be involved in successfully expanding the ‘Juntos’ program. Ultimately, ‘Juntos’ expansion cannot contribute to sustainable development if the country’s education and healthcare structures are not first reformed.

Still, some statistics suggest that ‘Juntos’ may be helping to decrease overall poverty. The INEI recently announced a sizeable 5.2 reduction in poverty in 2007. However, many have questioned the validity of these numbers, including Farid Matuk, an ex-president of INEI, who guesses that such numbers might be forged. They suggest a poverty reduction rate of 0.6 percent per each point of GDP growth, which is three times higher than the average of previous years. At this rate, Peru would eliminate poverty completely in about 10 years, which strains credulity. Despite the surprising results, several institutions, including the World Bank and two Peruvian universities, supervised the study’s methods and verified the validity of the statistics. If they are valid, then ‘Juntos’ may yet be the reason behind the reduction in poverty, considering it was being implemented when the purported drop began to accelerate.

Development must be sustainable
Every effort must be made to continue to promote poverty reduction. In the past, social programs repeatedly have failed to create sustainable development within the Peruvian neoliberal model. The economic expansion experienced by Peru between 1991 and 1997 in factreduced poverty by several points. However, the subsequent 1998 to 2001 recession was a huge step backwards, suggesting that the social programs in the 1990s failed to create sustainable development at the time. Will the new expansion be different, or will a future recession negate all of the advances which have been made?

Peru’s Economic Minister, Luis Carranza, optimistically has predicted that Peru will experience 10 to 15 years of economic growth starting in 2008. This would represent the longest expansion cycle in Peruvian history and would lead to a significant reduction in poverty. ‘Juntos’ could potentially play a part in Peru’s economic success, but for Carranza’s dream to become reality, the government must first take aggressive steps in favor of sustainable development and adequately address the problems of inequality, healthcare and education. Without such reforms in these areas, programs like ‘Juntos’ cannot create sufficient opportunities for the poor, no matter how carefully they are nurtured.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Guillermo Cornejo

http://www.coha.org/2008/07/peru%E2%80%99s-economic-model-and-poverty-reduction-is-it-working/

Advertisements

Garcia takes power facing Peru poverty “time bomb”

Posted in 3 Cables with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2009 by Farid Matuk

 

By Robin Emmott  |  July 26, 2006

PUNO, Peru (Reuters) – President-elect Alan Garcia takes office on Friday warning Peru is a “time bomb” that could explode into crippling protests if his government cannot combine its pro-business agenda with cutting chronic poverty.

Garcia, who is anxious to make amends for his disastrous first term in 1985-1990 that sparked economic collapse, faces the huge challenge of delivering the benefits of Peru’s unprecedented economic growth since 2002, while keeping international bondholders happy with a careful fiscal policy.

Poor Peruvians make up half the country’s 27 million population, especially in the southern Andes bordering Bolivia, and most did not vote for Garcia. They are impatient for jobs, access to clean drinking water and schools and hospitals.

“We’ll give Garcia six months to show some results. If nothing’s happened, we’ll start the protests,” said Luis Vilcapaza, who represents some 100,000 farmers in Peru’s southern Andes province of Puno.

Investors are keen to avoid the kind of political instability that almost toppled outgoing President Alejandro Toledo in 2004 and take advantage of Peru’s oil, gas and mineral wealth. Peru is the world’s No. 3 copper-producing nation and aims to export natural gas to Mexico from 2010.

Garcia’s presidential win in June was by a slim margin, giving him a weak mandate in a fractured congress.

His left-leaning American Popular Revolutionary Alliance party, known as APRA, is in the minority, while the party of losing presidential candidate Ollanta Humala has promised fierce opposition from its 45 seats in congress, nine more than

APRA.

“We face a time bomb because during Toledo’s term, the economy grew to benefit only 30 percent of the population,” Garcia said in a speech this month to residents of a shanty town on the edge of Lima.

“We will create economic progress that will allow us to confront these time bombs.”

Peruvians in the south say they want the kind of economic nationalism favored by Venezuela’s anti-U.S. President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian leader Evo Morales, not policies supported by Wall Street such as privatization.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS LOOM

They say that is the only way to ease social ills in a country where the gross domestic product per capita is lower than in 1975.

About 62 percent of young Peruvians are poor, according to a study by the U.N. Population Fund and the Peruvian health ministry.

The number of Peruvian women who die during childbirth is one of the highest levels in Latin America. One in three women in Peru’s jungle region become pregnant before age 20.

Malaria, tuberculosis and sexual violence against women also are all major problems in Peru.

“Garcia urgently needs to help the young,” outgoing Health Minister Pilar Mazetti told Reuters. “Otherwise we’ll see frustrations boil over into protests, the formation of gangs and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.”

Farid Matuk, outgoing head of Peru’s National Statistics Institute, said the solution is not in faster economic growth, as Garcia has pledged, because the economy only needs to grow above 3.3 percent annually to alleviate poverty.

Rather, Garcia should aim to develop the economy away from its historic dependence on mineral exports by helping small businesses and improving the way public funds are spent.

Peru’s mining regions will receive a record $800 million in 2006 from royalties and taxes, equivalent to slightly more than the government’s total annual health and education budget. But locals and miners say the money is not being properly spent.

“We need to see jobs and better schools, working hospitals,” said 43-year-old rickshaw driver Gabriel Tipo, a widower in Puno with five children. “If things don’t get better, I think Humala should stage a coup and take over government.”