#3. Colombia: Optimism and setbacks

stories • Published October, 2021

Colombia’s rank on the Happy Planet Index in 2019: #3. Explore the data.

By: Alfredo Arturo Corredor Becerra 

Among the factors that most impact Colombia’s score on the Happy Planet Index is its low carbon footprint. Thanks to its biodiversity, it is considered the world’s second most biodiverse and, the first in fauna and flora per square meter. Colombia also has a wealth of water protected areas that generate benefits for the world, such as the Amazon (one of the great ‘lungs of the world’), two oceans, the Atlantic and the other side, the Pacific, and countless ecosystems.

In the same way, this country has a wealth of cultural diversity within its nearly 50 million citizens, the vision of life in Colombia is driven by the idiosyncrasy (the behaviour and outlook) of the Colombian people who are known for their happiness, optimism, generous attitude, and supportive responses.

The country closed a process of internal war of more than 50 years, which is why President Juan Manuel Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. The end of the war meant an increase in life expectancy; it also brought with it optimism within the population and hope to improve their quality of life. However, it is a process that began with setbacks.

What can be improved

The armed conflict left more than 8 million internally displaced people, most of them from rural areas, to cities, who were not prepared to meet all their basic needs sufficiently and with quality.

Among the situations that have most notoriously affected the quality of life of Colombians is the arrival of about 1.8 million Venezuelan immigrants, who left their country in search of opportunities. This caused a large increase in already existing unemployment and informal employment (some due to the Pandemic), and resulted in an increase of monetary poverty. In fact,

“7.5 million people [in Colombia] were in a situation of monetary poverty in 2020 extreme, 2.8 million more than in 2019”.

Even before the arrival of the Pandemic, the public order situation in Colombia was negatively impacted by social discontent in the face of the existing level of unemployment, an unpopular tax reform, the level of violence that mainly affected people who signed the peace agreement and laid down their weapons, and also to a representative number of social and environmental leaders.

At the same time, corruption has been a major issue in Colombia. There have been corruption scandals surrounding some representatives of the Government and Justice system (such as Odebrecht) – which then were not effectively addressed by the law. While similar corruption cases in neighbouring countries led to  the recomposition of the congress and the resignations of Heads of State, this process has been delayed in Colombia.

What to address to achieve a better Happy Planet Index score

The application of the Sustainable Development Goals is required in a more determined way that helps to improve the levels of equity, human rights, transparency, decent employment, and quality of life in Colombia. 

All this will be delayed by the level of indebtedness of the country, which saw an increase in the deficit of the central national government, forecast at -2.2% of GDP, to – 8.9% of GDP in 2020, and the level of gross debt reached 64.8% of GDP at the end of 2020, compared to a level of 50.3% of GDP in 2019. This was caused, in part, by the impact of the management of the Pandemic for medical care, vaccination, and the subsidies that were granted to people with limited resources and the productive sector, to avoid further losses.

Still, we move forward with hope.

About the Author 

Arturo is the Cultural manager of Sustainability, Economist at the Jorge University Tadeo Lozano (COL) and has a Master and Doctorate in Sustainability from the European University of Energy and Environment (UEMA).
Since 2009, he has worked on the development of programs and projects in Sustainability with the Páramo Savers Corporation, an organization which he co-founded.
You can reach Arturo on Facebook at @Paramosavers.

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