Paraguay invests only U$S 140 per person in social spending

Gustavo Olmedo B.

Asunción, Aug. 27. "Paraguay has a large outstanding debt to itself: its extremely high spending on defence is scandalous in comparison with its low social spending, in a situation of growing poverty and inequality,” said Patricia Garcé, executive secretary of the International Secretariat of Social Watch, speaking at the launching of Social Watch’s Report for 2004, “Fear and Want: Obstacles to human security”.


The Report states that social spending in Paraguay amounts to U$S 140 per person per year, while the average for Latin America is U$S 696.  Investment in education here is U$S 66 per capita and in Latin America, U$S 169.

The Report, presented here by the Decidamos (Let’s Decide) organization, is edited annually by the Social Watch Network, made up of citizens’ observer organisations in 50 countries.  It contains information about steps forward and/or backward to do with the eradication of poverty, achieving gender equality, and the meeting of commitments made by countries towards these ends. 

“The research shows that the sources of violence are simply poverty, inequality, social exclusion, organised crime, corruption, bad governance and gender-related violence, among other things,” said Garcé, who added that in this context, poor countries need to prioritise the concept of “human security”  over and above those of territorial or State security.

CONCEPT.  The Report is closely linked to the international events of 2003, especially the war in Iraq, which called into question the concept of “security” subscribed to by governments.  “Human security is not built around the State nor its territorial defenses, but around the person and the community, that is, the protection and rights of human beings, their empowerment and ability to develop their full potential,” the expert affirmed.  The concept of human security has two principal dimensions.  The first is protection against chronic threats such as hunger, disease and repression; the second is protection against sudden upheavals and dangers in daily life, whether in the home, workplace or community.  The concept is proposed as complementary to that of State security.  The United Nations Programme for Development (UNPD) has identified 8 aspects of human security: economic, financial, food supply, health, personal, gender-related, community and political aspects. 

EVALUATION.  Paraguay is in second place among countries with the greatest social inequality, after Brazil.  The Social Watch Report for 2004 claims that the Paraguayan State is rooted in an outdated security paradigm, which is “based on armed security rather than on social development”.  It points out that according to the General National Budget for 2004, social spending is projected to fall by 11% in relation to 2003, and by much more compared to 2002.  It criticises the resources allocated to the Armed Forces, describing them as unnecessary and unproductive, while at the same time calling for better use of these resources, principally for developing health and education services.

WORLD CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED.   Social Watch is promoting a worldwide campaign called “No Excuses”, in pursuit of the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), agreed to in New York in the year 2000 by 189 countries from all over the world.  Patricia Garcé reported that a broad international coalition is being formed, including organisations from every interest group and social sector in each country, under the banner “Let Poverty Be History”.  The plan is to carry out public activities to demand the fulfilment and application of social programmes on the part of the authorities; and to pose budgetary proposals and initiatives that will enable better resource distribution.

CONTRADICTIONS AND IMBALANCES.  Worrying facts and figures.

In Paraguay:

- Between 1995 and 2001 extreme poverty has increased from 14% to 16%, and poverty has increased from 30% to 34%. 

- In 2002 only 53% of the population had access to drinking water, and the sanitation system reached only 9% of the population.

- In the General Budget for 2004, social spending will fall by 11% with respect fo 2003.

- From 1988 up to 1999 military spending increased by 11%.

- In 2001, the poorest 20% of households received 3% of total household income, while the richest 20% commanded 60% of the income.

In the world:

- Every year, U$S 50,000 million are allocated to development aid, and over U$S 1,000,000 million goes to military expenditure.

- Military expenditure in 2001 totalled over U$S 1,500 million per day.

- During 2003, the US military budget for the war against Iraq increased by U$S167.000 million.

- One nuclear submarine costs U$S 2,400 million, enough to vaccinate 70 million children and provide basic food for 53 million people.

- 840 million people are hungry today, and over 2,000 million people lack specific nutrients; women and children are the most vulnerable groups.  .

- One out of every seven children born in poor countries will die of malnutrition before they are five years old.

- 1,300 million people live on less than U$S 1 per day.  Meanwhile, agricultural subsidies of U$S 2 per day are given for each cow in the OECD countries.

- One out of every 3 women in the world has been beaten, abused, or coerced into having sexual relations.

Source:  Social Watch.

Paraguay’s social spending is only one-fifth of the Latin American average

Paraguay allocates only U$S 140 per person in social spending, while the average for Latin America is U$S 696 per person, according to a report by the international organisation Social Watch, represented in this country by Decidamos. The report states that investment in health and education is remarkably low.