Bulletin archive - Issue11 - October ? December 2003
Wednesday, 01 October 2003 01:00

Population 44.6 million. Average income has fallen since 1995, and in 2001was just $1,890 per capita. The poorest 50% of the population receive 20% of all income.


Official unemployment rate reached 20.5% in early 2001, at the time the highest in Latin America (since superseded by Argentina). Colombia's urban unemployment has declined to 16%, but poverty is nonetheless increasing. Neoliberal policies have led to the growth of the informal sector and reduced the real value of the minimum wage by about 8%. The unemployment figure masks the extent of the problem of lack of work. The official level of underemployment is over 30%. Only 52% of the economically active population are in regular, formal work. And 37% of these waged workers receive no more than the minimum wage, currently 332,000 pesos (about £70) a month, only 45% of the family cost of living.

While 55% of the land is held by just 1.1 per cent of the landowners, there are over 1 million landless peasants. Colombia has nearly 3 million internally displaced people, second only to the Sudan. The rate of displacement is 900 people a day.

Parents pay for children to go to state schools. Over 12% of 5-11 year olds, and 17% of 12-15 year olds, do not attend school. Less than 16% of 19-25 year olds attend university (2% from rural areas). 43% of the population are not in the social security schemes giving access to the most basic health care. 2.5 million children work informally.

Public sector debt is exploding, up from 83.6 million million pesos in 2001 to 105.4 million million pesos in 2002. It now stands at 51.1 per cent of GDP. Half of the debt is denominated in US dollars, and in the last two years the peso has devalued by 22% against the dollar. Interest repayments will take 37% of the state budget for 2004. But social investment will be only 12% of government spending. Increasing debt repayments have widened the gap between government expenditure and income. In January 2003 Uribe's government pledged to the IMF that it will half this fiscal deficit. The result is an extensive restructuring programme starting with cuts in state jobs and pensions (except for the military), a wage freeze and wholesale privatisations.