Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Give and take in Latin America

The numbers of those in poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean did a little give and take in 2008. Two million people were lifted out of poverty while three million people fell into extreme poverty.

The IPS Daniela Estrada gives us the numbers on a report from a regional United Nations agency.

According to the 2008 edition of ECLAC’s annual Social Panorama of Latin America report, released Tuesday in the Chilean capital, 33.2 percent of the regional population, or 182 million people, are now living in poverty, 0.9 percent less than in 2007.

At the same time, the extreme poverty rate rose slightly, from 12.6 percent of the population in 2007 to 12.9 percent this year (68 to 71 million people). Factors that played a role in this increase were the rise in inflation, and especially food prices.

Although the region is better prepared than in the past, both poverty and indigence rates could go up in 2009 as a result of the global financial and economic crisis that originated in the United States, said ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) executive secretary Alicia Bárcena at the presentation of the report.

Bárcena grouped the countries of the region according to their poverty levels: low (below 22 percent), medium-low (below 32 percent), medium-high (between 38 and 48 percent) and high (over 50 percent).

The first category includes Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Costa Rica, the second Brazil, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela, the third Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru, and the fourth Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay.

Under the present circumstances, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean should "protect the poor, maintain social spending, implement effective employment programmes, and step up the fight against child malnutrition," Bárcena told IPS.

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