Colombia is a developing country with many problems to face. Most people think violence is the greatest problem in this country. Notwithstanding, I agree violence is a very important fact, I believe poverty is the first problem to be solved. Poverty is a social issue that can not be put as a secondary progress by the government. Colombian central budget assigns large amounts of money to the war, instead of programs against poverty. To improve the democracy and development in Colombia we better feed the people first.
I do not think I have to explain here what poverty is. Just imagine yourself waking up in a morning and remembering that you have nothing for breakfast, that your kids will go to school (if they have the opportunity to go) without a cup of milk, and that you have to go to the street to look for money for lunch and dinner. I know it could be complicated to comprehend for someone who has lived in a country like Canada all his/her life. But I believe we all agree that poverty, whatever you understand for it, is a social problem to be solved with special priority. The Colombian government seemed that it would not have the same idea. Although, poverty is the fact that more directly affects the basic needs, in Colombia it looks like it has not been established as a priority. A State must be able to identify how much poverty is in its population and start looking for a solution sooner than later.
Now, let’s think how much money Colombia spends in its army and defence system. If you compare it with the United States, it is a miserable amount, but if you relate it to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), it is a significant amount of money and even bigger than the social portion. The Nation dedicates more than 3.0% of the GDP in warfare and only 0.5% to take care of the food inequity. An almost US$2,100 million a year is used in military expenses. In a country with 59.8% of the people living below the poverty line, it just does not make any sense. Furthermore, Colombia got last year US$1,300 million from the United States to support the Armed Forces, that is, to support the war. The war against guerrillas and drug dealers has not done a relevant difference. Drug crops have increased and guerrillas are more powerful. If at least part of that money had wasted there, would had been used to fighting against the poverty, for sure people in Colombia would live better.
People in charge of the money in Colombia could say that the Nation is in a threat and that it has to reinforce its institutions (especially the Army) in order to guarantee the democracy and development. However, I ask myself, what does democracy and development mean to hungry people? According to official sources, 23.4% of the Colombian population is below of the extreme poverty line. The people are who build the democracy and development in a Nation. But, I do not think that the 27 million of people trying to get out from poverty, could think about those abstract political terms. First, let’s give them the opportunity to get food, shelter, health and education.
In conclusion, although the political stability is in crisis in Colombia and the government needs strong tools to defend the democracy from the guerrillas and paramilitary groups, Colombia can not forget about poverty. Poverty is not only a cause of the Colombian armed conflict, but it is also feeding it everyday. Colombian government and society must fight against the poverty with the same vehemence that they are fighting against the illegal armed groups.
 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the total value of goods and services produced in a country over a year.
DANE (the Colombian Statistical Agency) computes the poverty line based on the minimum calorie and nutrient requirements of individuals of average age and sex. The World Bank uses the US$2 per day poverty line.
People in extreme poverty line are those that reside in homes whose incomes are so low that, although they were destined totally to purchase food, it would not reach to satisfy the nutrition necessities of all home members. The moderate poverty line is a multiple of the extreme one, which ranges from 2 to 2.5. From DANE (the Colombian Statistical Agency).
– Colombia. (2001). Políticas de Defensa Nacional: Discursos Ministro de Defensa Luis Fernando Ramírez Acuña, 1999-2001. Bogotá: Ministerio de Defensa Nacional.
– Colombia. Contralor General de la Nación. (2002). Propuestas para la transición del estado social de derecho. Bogotá: Contraloría General de la República.
– Echeverry, Juan Carlos. Presentación Costos de la paz y de la guerra. Bogotá Colombia: Departamento Nacional de Planeación, 2002.