Population and Development in Latin America

Population and Development in Latin AmericaLatin America is quickly changing and becoming important for global economy and development. China is in town and busy making Latin America as a ‘new partner’ for economic development. Nevertheless, Latin America still faces some major issues.

Across the continent, from Mexico to Chile, new young movements of protests, springing up from the lack of employment and access to basic needs for a decent living such as food and water. Also, increased lack of decent housing, access to a healthcare, education and real protection of human rights.

Pope Francis I, who is Latin American, recommends global leaders to hear the voices of people in the streets. Francis shows a real sense and interest for protests as a sign of liberty, and more than that, as a way to think about those who are still waiting to be heard.

Nowadays, some groups take advantage of social problems and unrest to make a call for controlling population´s growth as a way to address development challenges, with the assumption that less people will make it easier to take care of, which is a wrong solution. All those theories are incorrect. Population growth is not a problem but rather an advantage to achieve development goals.

As Obadias Ndaba said in a letter to the New York Times editor, April 12, 2012, “Economic prosperity isn’t driven by population size but rather by how a country invests in its human capital and manages its resources”.

If Latin America decides to follow a positive way, one which respects life and invests in its people, it will become a great economic powerhouse in the next decades. Human capital is perhaps the most important resource of any country and the first step to develop a strong economy is to invest in people’s lives. Human beings, as no other living on the planet, have a great capacity to find solutions to any problems we can think of.

Development should continue in such a way that dignity is the main measure to evaluate prosperity. If there was a political, economic or social change that put human dignity at risk, we should turn around and choose another way. As the famous  Bernardo Kliksberg said: the people first.

Latin America should invest in its people, they will then create new sources of employment, better education programs, social security and access to quality healthcare.

Population growth, which is already slow in most of Latin America, must be taken as an opportunity to develop wealthier countries and achieve a better place to live in, and enjoy life commensurate to human dignity. The real problem is the same in many places around Latin America, the unequal distribution of wealth, a result of corruption and unfair systems. Population growth is our best opportunities to achieve progress and development. The youth of Latin America is its power and a strong population is an untapped opportunity for economic development, if we make the right decisions and wise investments.

By Gustavo Ortiz, a WYA member from Costa Rica.