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From newsdesk@igc.apc.org Sun Oct 29 09:13:33 2000
Date: Sat, 28 Oct 2000 16:41:04 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: DEVELOPMENT-COSTA RICA: Economic Polarization, Says UNDP
Article: 107906
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

A 'Disjointed' Country, Says UNDP

By Nefer Munoz, IPS, 24 October 2000

SAN JOSE, Oct 24 (IPS) - Costa Rica recorded the greatest per capita economic growth in Latin America in 1999, and its development benefits its Central American neighbours, but the problems it suffers make it a disjointed country, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said Tuesday.

"The State of the Nation in Sustainable Human Development," an annual social and economic assessment prepared by the UNDP, reveals an important gap in Costa Rica between the positive economic indicators and the difficult reality of broad sectors of the population.

The per capita product rose 5.5 percent in 1999, the largest increase in Latin America, but the lowest-income Costa Ricans did not feel any of the positive effects, according to the UN agency.

Costa Rica continues on despite failing to reconcile its strengths with its opportunities, and as such is a "disarticulated" country, says the report.

The country's advances in the area of human development are notable, but it has not been able to prevent that one of five families lives below the poverty line, said Miguel Gutirrez, who co-ordinated the UNDP report.

The 414-page study, the sixth annual report on Costa Rica, dispels the myths spread around the world about the country's democracy, education and economy.

"We think we are an educated country, but we are barely literate; we are happy about increased exports, but we don't realise that few local companies benefit from it; and we consider ourselves a democratic nation, but we fail to notice that violence is on the rise," Gutirrez said.

There is a lack of connection between citizens and political institutions, between the central government and the municipalities, between the educational system and the requirements of the labour market, between the prosperity of the financial sector and the supply of housing credits, explains the document.

According the UNDP, 23.7 percent of the nearly 3.5 million Costa Ricans live in poverty, and in 1999, while the gross domestic product (GDP) grew eight percent, poverty among the poorest only grew worse.

Costa Rica is a pool whose placid surface suggests that the waters are immobile, but in the depths turbulent waters can be found.

At the bottom of the pool, some menacing cracks are forming: citizen distrust, ongoing poverty and the internal debt, stresses the State of the Nation, which was drafted by 30 national experts in areas including economics, sociology, law, education and the environment.

Most of the poor with jobs work for themselves or in domestic services and there are 218,000 people (7.5 percent of the Costa Rican population) living in extreme poverty, stressed Isabel Romn, a member of the research team.

The UNDP report indicates that Costa Ricans feel capable of building a better country, but are unable to unleash the forces to do so.

"The country is disjointed, not just in its economy, but also in its social attitude," said Sandra Piszk, ombudsman for Costa Rican residents.

The internal dialogue, traditionally the engine of progress, has been interrupted because the authorities do not encourage it, Piszk told IPS.

"Dialogue in Costa Rica has been demonized," and we have not taken full advantage of the economic, intellectual and moral resources of the Costa Rican people, she said.

The report also warns that the situation of women continues to be a trouble spot, as they still suffer discrimination in the social and economic spheres.

Gutirrez and Romn expressed their concern about ongoing domestic violence, which in the last decade has meant an average of two women's deaths each month.

Employment statistics also underscore the gender gap, according to the UNDP study. Women's unemployment reached 8.2 percent in 1999, the highest rate in the last 10 years, compared to the national average of 6.0 percent, and the male population's 4.9 percent unemployment. (END/IPS/tra-so/nms/ff/ld/00) = 10242202 MVD025 = 10242223 ORP059

Origin: Montevideo/DEVELOPMENT-COSTA RICA/ ----

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