The poverty reduction is good news for President Juan Manuel Santos, who will leave office in August knowing that his policies reduced the country’s poverty rate with 7.3 points since taking office in 2010.
A person is considered poor in Colombia if he or she earns less than $90 a month. With the exception of Venezuela, which is going through an unprecedented economic crisis, Colombia’s poverty rate continues to be higher than its neighbors.
How low can poverty go
According to statistics agency DANE, less than 27% of the population lived below the poverty line last year, more than one percentage point less than in 2016.
Colombia’s poverty rate remains more than double than that of the United States where approximately 12.7% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Extreme poverty in Colombia dropped from 8.5% in 2016 to 7.4% last year.
Colombia’s poverty rate
What’s wrong with Bogota?
The reduction in poverty is mainly due to rural development programs that seek to improve conditions in the countryside where more than one third of the population lives in poverty.
The cities however, and Bogota in particular, have had trouble lowering unemployment rates. With no real social welfare system in place, urban dwellers who lose their job are easily condemned to poverty.
Poverty in Colombia’s biggest cities
- Barranquilla – 20% (-1.7)
- Cali – 15.5% (+0.1)
- Medellin – 13.4% (-0.7)
- Bogota – 12.4% (+0.8)
- Bucaramanga – 12% (+1.5)
How to fix it
According to the World Bank, developing societies like Colombia must prioritize the nutrition and development of children if a country wants to reduce poverty. Malnutrition and deficiencies in the cognitive development of children has a lasting effect on their performance in school and ultimately in the global labor market.
Additionally, countries like Colombia are urged by the World Bank to invest in education in order to be able to compete in the global labor market. Without an educated labor force a country is unable to compete for quality jobs.
Universal healthcare should be another priority, according to the international financial institution. A healthy labor force is more productive.
The World Bank also favors progressive tax systems that allow a country to finance social programs like nutrition, education and universal healthcare.
Lastly, the organization stresses the importance of rural infrastructure, considering that “a quick reduction of rural poverty is rare without a structural and/or quick transformation of the countryside.”