Why Social Conflict?
Aldo Díaz Lacayo
The growing conflict in November and December was directly attributable to the government's economic policies, whose negative impact on the popultion only increased after the new 15% general sales tax was imposed last September in response to the freezing of US aid. The following are some indicators of that negative impact.
* Nicaragua's per-capita product was lower in 1991 than in 1960. It is the only country in the world that registered a decrease in abasolute terms. Percapita income has fallen every year since 1978, with the exception of the 1980-81 period and 1983. In 1992, annual per-capita income was $350.
* The Human Development Index for Nicaragua, which combines life expectancy, literacy and gross domestic product, dropped between 1970 and 1990. Nicaragua holds third place in the world for countries with the worst economic results.
* Total unemployment in 1992 affected 80,000 out of an economically active population of 675,000. According to official figures, between 1990 and 1991, 18% of the workers lost their jobs; of those, 80% did not find new employment in 1992. These figures do not include those who are underunemployed.
* According to the UN Human development Report for 1992, over 440,000 houses in Nicaragua are made of used and substandard materials and lack adequate sanitary conditions. Even by a conservative estimate of overcrowding--6 inhabitants per unit--61% of the population lives in such housing.
* Hant UN report also shows that the basi needs of 69% of Nicaraguans are unmet. In the northern departments of Madriz and Nueva Segovia and in the Autonomous Regions of the North and South Atlantic that figure reaches 85%, in Matagalpa and Jinotega it is 80%. The most economically deprived areas are those that were also war zones in the 1980s. According to the UN, at least 69% of Nicaraguans also suffer acute nutritional deficiency.
* UN studies also show that vaccination coverage of children under 5 years old, which was 20% in 1980 and had reached 80% by 1990, fell in 1991 to between 54% and 71%, only with 80% coverage can a country guaarantee the eradication of epidemics. In 1988 the government invested $57.10/person/year in health, today it invests $16.92, a 71% drop. Nicaragua today has dengue, hemorrhagic dengue, cholera, malaria and measles epidemics.