Obstacles to Development

Currently there are two major groups of countries: developed and developing countries. They represent two totally different worlds, one with all the conditions of well-being the other with bad and often degrading living conditions. But what is the origin of this inequality?

The Colonial Past

A major cause is related to the colonial past of many countries. The colonizing countries (Europeans) exploited the natural wealth of these countries in benefit of Europe. So, they developed further, leaving the colonized countries with no evolution. Almost all African countries achieved independence after World War II,  in the 60s. This ultimately led to dictatorships and political instability. Today, armed conflict still dominate in this countries which reduces their possibilities of development.

Natural Hazards

Photo Marco Dormino/ The United Nations

In general, developing countries are more vulnerable to natural hazards because the financial and technical resources available to carry out disaster prevention, saving lives and rebuilding infrastructure are lower than those of developed countries. That is why hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and droughts, very common in developing countries, have a great impact on its economy.

A good example is what happened in Haiti and Chile. A strong earthquake in Chile resulted in less than a thousand victims. In Haiti, the death rate was more than two hundred thousand.

Population Growth

Developing countries are primarily responsible for the population explosion in the world and, in general, still have high rates of natural increase due to high birth rate. Due to this rapid growth of population, we are witnessing the worsening of problems such as poverty, the growth of slums and rising of crime, violence and social instability, malnutrition, difficult access to education and lack of health care.

The Democratic Deficit

There are still many countries with single-party regimes (military or dictatorial). It’s common the disregard for human rights and press freedom, the corruption, the misuse of capital and the enrichment of the ruling classes. This triggers political and social instability, which ultimately harms their development.

Armed Conflicts

Developing countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and South Asia, continue to be heavily affected by wars. Destruction of infrastructure, refugees and casualties, expenditure on armaments and recruitment of child soldiers are some of the consequences.

International Trade

Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East are still very dependent on the export of agricultural or mineral products. In 38 of these countries, a single product contributes half of the value of the exports. Unfortunately, there was a general fall in commodity prices between 1974 and 2004. Many of these countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa, depend on a small range of agricultural products and, therefore, the general fall of prices led them to double exports to maintain income levels constant and counter the deterioration of terms of trade. However, more offer eventually mean new lower prices and thus aggravated the terms of trade.

Transnational Corporations

The objectives of the transnational corporations are easy to summarize: lower production costs, gain more market and increase profits. But they are accused of lack of loyalty to workers and to the countries that host them, when they close its subsidiaries and move it to other countries, where production costs are lower. Many cause serious environmental damage, exploiting the raw materials and the labor-cheap population of developing countries, as their profits are repatriated almost entirely to developed countries.

In many developing countries, governments are very vulnerable to the interests of transnational corporations, yielding to corruption and allowing over-exploitation of resources of their own country.