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Colombia The ­Data Economists and economic geographers love statistical data. For example, Colombia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—the annual value of goods and services ­ produced—­is estimated to be $374.4 billion (in 2006). This figure, alone, however, is rather meaningless. It becomes significant when you know that Colombia ranks twenty-seventh of the world’s 229 countries, or that in South America, only two countries have a higher total GDP. Further, its economy is growing at 5.4 percent annually (in 2006). This rate of gain places it squarely in the middle among South American countries (which is hardly a reason to rejoice). The figure becomes even less significant when one realizes that much of the gain is eaten away by inflation, running at 4.3 percent in 2006. The unemployment rate is 11 percent, not bad by LDC standards. A whopping 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, however. This suggests that the rate of underemployment—­people working, but not in adequately paying ­jobs—­is huge. Further, the distribution of wealth is cause for alarm. The poorest 10 percent of the population possess about 8 percent of the nation’s capital, whereas the wealthiest 10 percent controls about 35 percent of the ­capital. The Huge “Gorilla” on Colombia’s ­Back For Colombia, most countrywide economic data are meaningless. The illegal trade in narcotics is a huge economic “gorilla” that casts doubt on all economic figures. Although there are many estimates, it is all but impossible to find and present reliable data pertaining to the economic impact of the drug trade. U.S. government data suggest that as much as 500 metric tons of cocaine and 6 metric tons of heroin are exported from the country annually. The street value of the cocaine alone in the United States would be an estimated $67 billion. Some economists place the annual value of illegal narcotics to Colombia’s economy at about $90 billion a year, or nearly 25 percent of the country’s total GDP! Other estimates, however, are much


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