Of richer and poorer

We’ve been in highland Colombia now for about a week and it feels like a different country. The landscape is different. It’s green for one thing. And there is an endless succession of rolling and diving hills. Society seems different too. It’s noticeably wealthier, and, as we noted when we first arrived in Bogota, it feels less crazy.

I wanted to get to grips with this better so I took a look at some purchasing power statistics. There’s a massive disparity between the richest and poorer of Colombia’s 39 departments:

  • The richest, Casanare is small on population but big on oil fields. Its citizens have a purchasing power parity (PPP) equivalent to the European Union average. At $31,400 USD it’s also richer than New Zealand.
  • The poorest Vaupe, is in the deepest, darkest Amazon jungle bordering Brazil. It’s PPP might be understated as it’s a hotbed for guerilla warfare and drug production. But at least officially its citizens are about as rich as those of Nigeria or Papua New Guinea ($2,700 USD).

Disparity is noticeable at a more general level too and that’s what we’ve been observing as we travel:

  • Highland Colombia, which has the biggest cities and most of the people has a PPP of $11,700 USD per person. That’s equivalent to Brazil.
  • Lowland Colombia – the Caribbean and Pacific coasts has a PPP of little more than half the highlands. At $6,600 it’s about the same as Egypt.

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