The nature of underdevelopment in poor countries has been one of the contentious social issues in recent times. Each country has its own version as to why it is underdeveloped. Colombia is a third world country and is ranked amongst the underdeveloped countries in the world. Being located in Latin America, Colombia borders other third world countries like Brazil and Venezuela. However, it is illogical to assume that the general problems that are associated with underdevelopment in Latin America are a replica of underdevelopment in Colombia. The following research and discussion offers insightful information on the nature of underdevelopment in Colombia and the possible cause of the underdevelopment in Colombia from an economic perspective.
Colombia is a rich agricultural zone that has world recognition in production of palm oil and other agricultural products. However, agricultural products, which are produced in Colombia, have minimally contributed to growth of Colombia’s economy for a long time.
Development of economic, social and political structures has been slow for the last few decades, a trend that has facilitated poverty and social injustice. Perhaps the best approach towards understanding the underdevelopment in Colombia is through an economic approach.
Economical perspective of underdevelopment in Colombia
Although economic growth in Colombia started after Brazil, Chile and other countries in Latin America were already in an industrialization phase, the country has been depending on foreign investors (Kofas, 1986). There is a possibility that the early perspective of relying on developed countries for economic assistance negatively impacted the Colombian economy up to date. However, there are analysts who perceive the control of Colombian economy by foreign investors as an opportunity for Colombian corporations to remain competitive in relation to international corporations (Means, 1980). Another approach for assessing the nature of economic underdeveloped in Colombia was formulated by the World Bank. According to World Bank, the nature of economic underdevelopment in Colombia is attributed to lack of better and quality tertiary education (World Bank, 2003). In assessing the nature of underdevelopment in Colombia from an economical perspective, the following three issues will be significant in determining the economic situation in Colombia.
Industrialization in Colombia
After the World War 1, Colombia was one of the economical giants in Latin America. Huge industrialization developments took place in construction and manufacturing industries. Agricultural products; coffee and tobacco drove the Colombian economy until the economic recession of late 1970s and 1980s. After the economic recession, most third world countries could only afford to import product substitutions from other countries since they could not afford to manufacture them in the domestic industries. Moreover, the demand for local product in international markets was streamlined to domestic marketing. The Colombian industries no longer focused on mass production of capital goods, but on consumer goods. The other measure that Colombia took after the economic downturn is adopting a protectionist policy, which was aimed at protecting the local industries, only to cause another economic problem; unfavorable balance of payment. The Colombian economy had to undergo a period of deindustrialization, a concept that negatively affected various economical sectors. In a bid to resuscitate the economy, Colombia adopted a policy that ensured agricultural products were exported to the international market, but the strategy was ill advised, since the result was an undervalued Colombian currency; the peso. The economic trend since the World War 1 in Colombia has experienced both ups and downs of the economy, but the impact of most of the economic policies that were made still affect the Colombian economy. From a theoretical point of view, the Colombian economy may be termed as one of the most successful economies that used strategic approaches in reviving an economy that was faced by most turbulent economical situations. However, some of the economic policies by the Colombian government were regionally based and amounted to immense regional imbalance of resources and wealth distribution (Boudon, 2006). This inequality not only left some of the Colombian regions undeveloped, but deprived the regions the opportunity to improve from an economical perspective, through better transport infrastructures and social amenities like medical and education facilities.
For many third world countries, foreign investment is likened to a last resort strategy of reviving a heavily underdeveloped economy. Colombia is no exception and in the early 1990s, Colombia had attracted a great deal of foreign investors who majored in agriculture, oil exploration and transport sector. The Colombian government through the Colombian central bank and the Council on Economic and Social Policy drafted a law that ensured foreign investors were accorded the same rights, rules and regulations as domestic investors. Besides this new economic development, the Colombian government also entered into trade agreements with neighboring countries as a way of promoting free trade. These strategies improved the Colombian economy from all aspects, but with the improvement there were still some adverse effects associated with foreign investment in the country. For example, the new policy of foreign direct investment (FDI) adopted by countries in Latin America Colombia included, have led to significant negative effect on domestic industries. International and foreign investors in Colombia have competitively ousted the domestic investors in various economical fields (Inter-American Development Bank, 2001). Moreover, the magnitude and scope of operations that foreign investment display is far beyond the financial ability of domestic investors who views this as inappropriate, when they are subjected to similar operating conditions. However, FDI have positively impacted the growth of Colombian economy by offering employment opportunities to the Colombian population, exposed domestic investors to new business practices and technology. By the year 2010, the total foreign direct investment in Colombia amounted to $2,063 million. That is, from the total investment manufacturing investment was worth 14%, coal mining and minerals 34%, oil exploration 31%, transport and construction3% each and hospitality industry totaled to 8 %.
It is critical to note that industrial sector in Colombia is centralized, rendering some of the remotest regions in Colombia with less resources underdeveloped. This perhaps would imply that underdevelopment in Colombia cannot be generally applicable on the entire country, but on a regional perspective.
According to the World Bank, development in Colombia depends entirely on education. The current state of underdevelopment is argued to be associated with lack of quality education in the tertiary level. Tertiary education is very instrumental in imparting knowledge and skills for driving an economy. According to World Bank (2003), statistics depict that there has been a decline in gross domestic product (GDP) from the year 1990 to 1999. Between the year 1990 and 1999, GDP declined from 4% to -4.5% respectively. In the same context, school enrollment declined from the year 1998 to the year 1999. These declining of school enrollment of young children in elementary and high school were attributed to poverty and economical problems in Colombia. The most intriguing fact is that, while the rest of the world have expanded tertiary education and made access to tertiary education easy, Colombia is facing a problem of providing tertiary education to its citizens in an inequitable manner. For example, tertiary education have been traditionally entrenched and reserved for children with wealthy backgrounds. A further analysis of such a situation reveals that majority of students from poor backgrounds live into adulthood without undergoing basic education training. In such a case, the poor children cannot be able seize to opportunities of developing their country from an economic perspective. Another characteristic of tertiary education in Colombia is associated with urban locations. This means that children and students from rural areas do not have an access to tertiary education institutions.
Representation of urban students in urban locations who get employment
From the table above, it is evident that tertiary education for students in urban areas is important in getting employment opportunities. However, it is evident that gender inequality is still a problematic issue in Colombia despite the fact that more females are educated.
Underdevelopment in Colombia cannot be entirely associated with lack of quality and equal tertiary education, industrialization and foreign investments. Colombia has been under constant political turmoil for many years, with guerrilla rebels disrupting the most vital sectors that can develop a country. With war, Colombia children cannot have peace to get proper education, foreign investors cannot invest in a war torn country and industries cannot operate. Despite the economical rankings that imply Colombia is underdeveloped country, the Latin American country is still one of the economic pillars in Latin America, and has a global popularity in producing coffee and palm oil.
Boudon, L. (2006). Handbook of Latin American studies: Social Sciences. Texas, TX: University of Texas Press.
Inter-American Development Bank. (2001). Competitiveness: The business of growth: Economic and social progress in Latin America: 2001 report. Washington, D. C., WA: Inter-American Development Bank.
Kofas, J. V. (1986). Dependence and underdevelopment in Colombia. Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, Center for Lain American Studies.
Means, R. C. (1980). Underdevelopment and the development of law: Corporations and corporation law in nineteenth-century Colombia. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
World Bank. (2003). Tertiary education in Colombia: Paving the way for reform. Washington, D. C., WA: World Bank publications.