Brain matters

Saying that education strengths economic growth sounds good old common sense. But proving and measuring this relation is not immediate and therefore interesting. A reasearch, published last year, does it. Eric Hanushek, Dean T. Jamison, Eliot A. Jamison and Ludger Woessmann estimate that

each additional year of average schooling in a country increased the average 40-year growth rate in GDP by about 0.37 percentage points. That may not seem like much, but consider the fact that since World War II, the world economic growth rate has been around 2 to 3 percent of GDP annually. Lifting it by 0.37 percentage points is a boost to annual growth rates of more than 10 percent of what would otherwise have occurred, a significant amount.

Nonetheless, the research suggests that what really matters for economic growth is the quality of education. In other words it is not enough to send children to school: you have to teach them something. Using test-score performances around the world to measure the cognitive skills of students appears

that countries with higher test scores experienced far higher growth rates. If one country’s test-score performance was 0.5 standard deviations higher than another country during the 1960s (…) the first country’s growth rate was, on average, one full percentage point higher annually over the following 40-year period than the second country’s growth rate. Further, once the impact of higher levels of cognitive skills are taken into account, the significance for economic growth of school attainment, i.e., additional years of schooling, dwindles to nothing. A country benefits from asking its students to remain in school for a longer period of time only if the students are learning something as a consequence.

These results are extremely important especially for the countries of the Bottom Billion. What they are saying is that it is better to invest on the quality of the education (where rate of return is much higher) rather than spending to keep students in schools longer.

Crisis from the South /3

The Inter-American Development Bank publishes today on its web-site previsions for remittance flows in 2009 to Latin America: they will go down for the first time since 2000. And different countries are experiencing different situation. The Andean region is effected worse by the decline of the euro whereas the Mesoamerica region sees a strong dollar partially counterbalance the decrease in money flow.

According to the Banco de Guatemala, in the first two month of 2009 remittances to the country have diminished by 9.59% comparing with same period of 2008.

Crisis from the South /2

And it appears that the  problem is not just limited to remittances. According to The Institute of International Finance, private financial flows from rich countries to poor ones will decrease by 63% this year: from US$ 456,8 billions in 2008 down to 165,4 billions in 2009. In 2007 these flows amounted to US$ 928,6 billion.Talking about Latin America, inflows will be down  51% from 2008 level and 76% considering 2007 level.

Money are basically heading home.

Truth, finally. Maybe

Guatemalan newspaper La Hora affirms that, for the first time, the  government will hand to the ministerio público (attorney general) the military archives regarding cases of genocide occurred during the civil war (1960-1996). The decision was taken after the constitutional court notification to president Álvaro Colom.  In particular, the military files concern the campaign plans named “Victoria 82”, “Firmeza 83” and the operational plans named “Ixil” (1982) and “Sofía” (July 15, 1982).

So far, it is not known when this will happen. But the Secretary of peace, Orlando Blanco, confirmed that this will happened.

The archives will effect the trial for violation of human rights and genocide, began in 2000, against the former presidents of Guatemala Lucas García and Ríos Montt.

According to the Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico, during the Guatemala civil war (conflicto armado interno) 200,000 people had been killed . Most of them (93%) were victims of state security forces and most of them (83%) were Maya. Between 500,000 and 1.5 million people were displaced.

Crisis from the South

According to Banco de Guatemala, for the first time since 1999, in January 2009 remittances from abroad decreased by 7.75% compared to the same month in 2008. In Guatemala remittance  flows represent 11.89% of GDP. According to the World Bank remittances can represent more than 50% of rurally-based family income and for the International Organization for Migration 30.4% of the population receives money from abroad.

Causes? Probably economic crisis and deportation of  illegal immigrants from the US.

Something is certain: remittances are a strong factor in reducing poverty in Guatemala. If flows continue to decrease is more than probable that poverty will rise in a country where, according to the government, 45,6% of children are already underweight.