Latin America and the Caribbean remains the most socially unequal region in the world, the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said today, highlighting the measures required to tackle the problem in a region which has made significant strides in reducing poverty.
“Ten out of the fifteen most unequal countries in the world are in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator, addressing the opening session of the 4th Ministerial Forum on Development in Latin America at UN Headquarters in New York. “While the region is not the poorest in the world, it is the most unequal,” she said.
Miss Clark gave the reasons for inequality in the region as continuing gaps in the quality of social services and access to them; institutional and regulatory challenges, including insecure property rights and limited access to justice, which affect the poor mostly; and a lack of opportunity for decent work.
Miss Clark stressed that countries in the region needed to address inequality through specific public policy instruments, rather than treat it as a by-product of successful poverty reduction programs.
“Those instruments need to reflect the multi-dimensional nature of inequality across the economic, political, and social dimensions, and be designed to reach the poorest and most vulnerable people, including women, indigenous people and Afro-descendants,” she said.
The Administrator also spoke of the need to strengthen the capacity to mobilize domestic resources, pointing out that the tax burden among countries in the region ranges from 10 to 23 percentage points lower than the average in other regions of the world, and tax evasion is widespread.
“UNDP can assist with designing effective policy in these areas, drawing on the extensive experience gained and knowledge derived from our work around the world and across the development spectrum.”
Commenting on the relevance of development assistance to middle income countries, such as those in Latin America, Miss Clark emphasized that the income range within that category remained wide.