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|FOCALPoint May 2011|
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With a majority government in place, Canada can now push a more focused, effective strategy for the Americas.
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According to a World Bank publication released on April 7, 2011, Central America is facing a crime situation so critical that its economic prosperity is being held back. According to the report, entitled Crime and Violence in Central America: A Development Challenge, the region’s violent environment is so burdensome that an estimated eight per cent of annual GDP is spent by states of the region on security-related expenses.
Central America, which has a population similar in size to that of Spain, had more than 40 times as many murders in 2006. This crime problem is most prevalent in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras; other regional states attest to significantly lower crime levels.
Given the extensive violence in the region, this report proceeds to remark that a modest 10 per cent reduction in crime levels would boost annual economic growth per capita by as much as one per cent. With this reduction in crime there would be fewer labour hours lost, the investment climate would be more attractive and more government resources could be devoted to capital and human development as opposed to the fight against crime.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in its annual update of the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, presented on April 11, 2011 data that shows that the states of South America have sharply increased their military expenditures during the year 2010. In this year regional states increased their real term military expenditures by 5.8 per cent. This stark increase is noteworthy when compared to the region’s average increase throughout the period of 2001-2009, which was 3.7 per cent.
It is remarked in a SIPRI document, which explains the organization’s findings, that South America weathered the financial crisis fairly comfortably and for this reason it was able to afford increased military expenditures. Meanwhile the increase can also be explained by Brazil’s desire to play a greater role in international affairs. Indeed this country’s increased military expenditure in 2010 was 9.3 per cent, which is responsible for 80 per cent of the region’s increase. The elevated effort by some South American states in combating internal security threats also contributed to the heightened expenditure.
While the boost in expenditures in this area is surprising given the virtual absence of military threats to the region and provided that there are more pressing social needs, it must be remarked that this increase is miniscule when compared to the world total military expenditure of $1.63 trillion. The total sum of present South American military expenditures represents a mere 3.9 per cent of the world’s total.
On April 25, 2011, the fifth World Malaria Day was observed to commemorate the global fight toward achieving the complete eradication of malaria by 2015, which is an objective of the United Nations’ sixth Millennium Development Goal. In 2009, approximately 3.3 billion people around the world were at risk of contracting malaria. In this same year, the disease caused nearly 800,000 deaths worldwide.
In the Americas, the threat of malaria is still present in 23 of the 31 states of the region. Twenty per cent of the total population of this region is at least to a modest degree still at risk of contracting the disease. However, the risk is concentrated in four countries: Brazil, Colombia, Haiti and Peru. During the 2000-2009 period these countries accounted for 90 per cent of all malaria cases in the Americas.
While malaria is still prevalent in the Americas, the disease appears to be on the decline. Reported cases of malaria in the region dropped from 1.18 million in 2000 to 526,000 cases in 2009. Much of this success can be attributed to improved malaria detection and diagnosis strategies, as well as better vector control activities, such as environmental sanitation and the application of larvicides.