LIMA, Peru — For the past decade, poverty reduction has been one of the Peruvian government’s paramount initiatives. With a precipitous drop in poverty rates from 48.5 percent in 2004 to just 24 percent in 2014, Peru’s concentration on poverty reduction has proven to be effective.
President Ollanta Humala intended to continue to reduce Peru’s most extreme indigence from 6.3 percent to 5 percent by 2016. However, this goal is no longer relevant because poverty in Peru has already been reduced to 4.7 percent.
Despite these optimistic numbers, Peru’s progress may rely too heavily on government measures that are palliative and unsustainable business practices which are resulting in the depletion of natural resources.
Minister of Development and Social Inclusion, Paola Bastamante, attributes poverty reduction to government programs.
“Around 300,000 of the people who have emerged from extreme poverty are directly connected with the intervention of Juntos and Pension 65,” stated Bastamante.
Juntos, which translates to “Together,” and Pension 65 are two government programs that work toward alleviating poverty. Juntos does its part by providing 825,000 families with 200 soles, or $68, bimonthly. Furthermore, the money is distributed on the condition that children in the family receive regular medical checkups and attend school.
In a similar manner, Pension 65 ensures impoverished senior-citizens receive 250 soles ($85) bimonthly.
These programs sound beneficial to Peruvians; however, when taking into consideration that most of Peru’s recent economic growth has been attributed to a sharp increase in government spending, without the buttress that is private-sector stability, Peru’s economic future becomes a bit more precarious.
The problem with Peru’s private-sector, which is driven primarily by mining and logging, is that these lucrative areas are not environmentally sustainable.
Maria Eugenia Mujica, an author of a 2013 UN Development Programme’s human development country report on Peru, warned that “If we disregard [environmental]sustainability, whatever progress we have made in poverty reduction or improvement of human development will just be erased due to climate change.”
For Mujica, mining and logging are not sustainable businesses and therefore, cannot be trusted to bolster the improvements made in alleviating poverty by government programs such as Juntos and Pension 65. In order for the eradication of poverty to become a reality, both the public and private sectors must find long-term solutions.
One of Mujica’s co-author’s, Francisco Santa Cruz stated that Peru’s recent economic growth “does not come from education or health, but from predatory activities, like [resource]extraction and mining.”
That being the case, Peru is currently unbalanced between government largesse and unsustainable private-sector growth. It can be inferred from Mujica and Santa Cruz that a stable economy and reduction of poverty might be found in the form of education, health and environmental sustainability.
At any rate, there is still optimism about Peru’s current and future poverty rates. Bastamante believes that decreasing poverty rates have the potential to “generate opportunities” for a more educated and healthy population.
– Jarad Sassone-McHugh