Monday, January 11, 2010

Welcome to the club

Today Chile becomes a member of the 30-strong "rich nations club", the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Chile was a military dictatorship in the 1970s and the 1980s, with the right-wing military Junta of General Augusto Pinochet committing terrible atrocities in order to repress left-wing & liberal opposition and hang on to power.  At that time in Latin America, dictatorial government was the norm and human rights were  routinely infringed.

Two decades of good government later, Chile is a model democracy with a GDP per capita of around US$15,000 and a high rating on the UN's human development index.  Their pension system has become a model for countries all over South America as well as in Eastern Europe.  Their growing horticultural industries are world class and a good complement to the base of the economy, copper.  The country is an island of stability in a continent that, while improving, is still racked by social problems, democratic shortfalls and economic underdevelopment.

Let's hope that in two decades from now we will be reading about Moldova joining the OECD.  It can be done, even from the most dismal of starting places and in the most difficult of contexts.  Chile has proved it.

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