Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Mali: Growth without Development

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Mali: Growth without Development

Article excerpt

Whose fault is it that economic growth has been accompanied by increasing poverty in one of the world's poorest countries?

In the last few years, Mali's economic growth rate has picked up, but most Malians haven't noticed the benefits. "It's growth without jobs, development or freedom," says Aminata D. Traore, a psychosociologist, businesswoman and decorative artist who is Mali's minister of culture and tourism. "Macroeconomic performance is being achieved at the cost of the basic and urgent needs of most of the population," she says.

Mali's gross domestic product (GDP) grew on average by five per cent a year between 1994 and 1996, and poverty by two per cent a year, according to a report by the country's Observatory for Sustainable Human Development and the Struggle against Poverty (ODHD) published in July 1998. The new poor, Traore says, "are people who've lost their jobs and those who've never had a job" - people who've been laid off from state bodies regarded as overstaffed, and young people without a job. Most of them gravitate to the informal economy, where taxes are not paid and figures are unavailable. "Without this sector the situation would be explosive," according to Traore.

Today, 72 per cent of of Mali's 9.2 million population live below the poverty line, i.e. on barely $180 a year (less than 50 cents a day), according to ODHD. The indicators present a grim picture. One third of Malians cannot expect to live to the age of 40; almost four-fifths are illiterate; over half lack clean water supplies; and two-thirds have no access to health services. Half the children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, as against 35 per cent in 1988. The only bright spot is a slowdown in the rate at which poverty is spreading. Between 1989 and 1994, the number of people living below the poverty line rose by 11 per cent a year, as against two per cent since.

Traore believes that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund bear considerable responsibility for deteriorating living conditions. In a recently published book, L'Etau (Actes Sud publishers, Paris, 1999), she claims for her country the right to shape its own destiny. …

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