The vulnerability of the middle class in Latin America is one of the main problems that the region must face to comply with the global goals of sustainable development, a high representative of the UN warned today.
"Latin America is a region of middle income, but it has not been able to consolidate itself as a middle class society. Although the majority of the population has emerged from poverty, it is still in a situation of great vulnerability," said the director of the UN Development Program (UNDP), Luis Felipe López Calva.
A quarter of the poverty reduction achieved in the region between 2000 and 2015 "has been lost" as a result of the economic crisis, "showing the high levels of vulnerability," he said.
To consolidate this middle class, he added, it is necessary to increase tax collection and "improve the effectiveness of institutions, especially at the level of local governments," among other things.
ECLAC reduced the growth estimate for Latin America to 1.5 percent at the end of August, mainly due to several external uncertainties, including trade tensions between the United States and China.
The official was one of the special guests at the opening of the 10th Ministerial Forum for
Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, in which representatives of some twenty countries and international organizations assess the regional progress in achieving the objectives of Sustainable Development (ODS).
The SDGs are a set of commitments acquired in 2015 by 193 world leaders to eradicate poverty and inequality in 2030.
The UNDP administrator, Achim Steiner, said that development is more "complex" nowadays and that the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) is an instrument that by itself is no longer "sufficient" to measure the social development.
"We cannot solve the problems of the 21st century development with sector analysis. We have reduced poverty a lot, but extreme poverty is very difficult to eradicate, we need multisector approaches," he said.
During the forum, which concludes on Thursday, the countries of the region will exchange experiences on public policies in the field of human and social development and will debate proposals to face new challenges in the region.
Panama, as host country, presented a unique tool in Latin America to measure child poverty that will help identify more precisely the special needs of this sector of the population.
This is the Multidimensional Poverty Index of Children and Adolescents (IPM-NNA), a complement to traditional monetary measures that considers all the elements that make up child poverty, including access to education, health or housing.
The index, endorsed by the United Nations and the University of Oxford, points out that multidimensional poverty affects, on average, 32.8 percent of children between 0 and 17 years old in Panama, and that it has an incidence of 45.6 percent.
The director of UNDP for Latin America praised the Panamanian initiative and said that "there have been many advances in national ownership and the SDGs have been included into the national agendas" of the countries of the region.
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said that his country "has made a serious commitment to comply with the SDGs" and that the widespread corruption shared by many countries in the region also thwarts sustainable growth.
"Our people are rich countries, with a large amount of resources, where the inequality and the levels of poverty in which many citizens live are not justified, which is why the main social protection system for me is the protection of the people's assets and sponsorship," said Varela.