Peru's Economic Growth- has it trickled down?

Posted February 29, 2012 @ 7:21am | by Comunidad


Peru’s surging economy - has it trickled down?

written by Jessica Ebertz


As a nation, Peru experienced an economic boom in the 2000s, even posting positive growth during the world financial crisis in 2008, and was said to have one of the world’s fastest growing economies in 2011. Much of this was due to market-oriented economic reforms and privatizations, including massive foreign and domestic investment in Peru’s mineral wealth. A question you might reasonably ask, and indeed we have asked this ourselves, is whether this national economic growth and increased production has trickled down to the villages and people that Comunidad has committed to helping? The answer is, overwhelmingly and disappointingly, no.


While the economic growth has improved Peru’s overall poverty rate, this has occurred mainly in urban areas. In the past decade the overall poverty rate in Peru has fallen from over 50% to about 30% according to World Bank statistics. Unfortunately, benefits from the improved economy have barely touched the rural highland communities in which we work, and where government services are scarce. The indigenous communities in the southern highlands of Peru - our students and families - remain the poorest of the poor, with a poverty rate of 73%. Because that figure includes both urban and rural, it is undoubtedly even higher in our rural villages. The need for education and nutrition projects such as the ones we run and support has not ebbed, and in fact the further we look the greater need we discover. Some of the villages we visit are so remote they are barely on the national or even state level radar screen and even basic services are practically nonexistent.


And while this may fodder for a future blog, the fact is that the profits from industries such as mining are benefiting a few (huge and often foreign corporations), while being made on the backs of the poor and at the expense of the environment. You are encouraged to read the article Gold Fever in the February 2012 issue of the Smithsonian. The current methods of gold mining in Peru are literally eating up and spitting out the earth and leaving nothing behind but stripped and polluted land and mercury-poisoned water. Here is the connection to us: young indigenous children are still being sent away by their families to work and earn money, now in the gold fields, and end up exploited as slave labor. This is a tragic and desperate scenario that has played out for generations, as we know. One of Comunidad’s original inspirations, Wilbur Quispe from Paccha, where we started our first projects, is a survivor of that scenario (see "A Durable Weave" We continue our education work to combat the poverty that makes that scenario even thinkable. 


Yes, desperate poverty still exists in Peru. Benefits from the much ballyhooed economic boom in Peru have a long long way to trickle to make it to the remote highland areas where we do our work. If it happens, this will be a welcome blessing and may allow us to re-evaluate the need for our programs, but until we see signs of this, our commitment continues. Education remains the best weapon against poverty.

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