Last week, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) administrator Helen Clark and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto launched the 2013 Human Development Report “The rise of the South: human progress in a diverse World”, during the visit of the Ms. Clark to Mexico. It is not surprising that this announcement took place in the Mexican capital, since the report is particularly relevant to developing countries and especially to Latin American.
The study highlights the increasing participation of developing countries in trade and investment, and in consequence, the changes inflicted in the global economy, geopolitics and society. It also points out that the shift in the World’s balance of power has not been fully reflected in the current structure of international organisations.
According to the Report, the Human Development Index (HDI) for Latin America presents a general rising trend. Most of the countries in the region, with the exception of Haiti, are considered as medium income countries or above, as a result of better performance in life expectancy, education and GDI (gross domestic income) per capita (the three parameters measured by UNDP HDI). In the case of Mexico, its HDI rose from 0.605 in 1980 to 0.758 in 2012*, which takes the country to position 61 out of 183 countries, clearly above the average index for the region and only behind South Korea and Russia between the MIST (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey) and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries (www.hdr.undp.org).
In general terms, the standard of life of Latin-Americans seems to have increased in the last 20 years. However, these results are misleading by the fact that the index does not take into account the distribution of human development among the population and, especially when the concentration of income is in the hands of a very small group. For instance, 30% of the 100 top richest people in 2013 Forbes list come from developing countries (http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/) and from that proportion, one third comes from Latin America.
Developing countries have created new models and strategies to overcome underdevelopment, by targeting inequality and improving the standard of life of populations. Examples of these are the Mexican program, under its current denomination, Oportunidades and its Brazilian version Bolsa familia, as well as, cash transfers and subsidies schemes such as the ones implemented by the Indian and the Indonesian government. Nevertheless, these strategies take time to harvest and therefore it is important to continue that tendency and reinforce social investment, particularly in education, health and infrastructure.
“The South is driving global economic growth and societal change for the first time in centuries,” says the Report. But developed and developing governments must ensure that such economic growth spills over and aims to a more equally social and geographical distribution.
*GDI per capita of USD$12,947, life expectancy of 77 years and a mean of 8.5 years of schooling (hdr.undp.org).