Five-day session designed to consider what blocks development

Representatives from at least 68 countries will gather in San José this week to consider development. These are the so-called renta media countries with individual average income less than $13,000 a year.

The conference is a project of the Laura Chinchilla administration that once again puts the eye of the world on Costa Rica.

There are confirmed visits from officials in the Sudan, Belorussia, Jordan, Angola and even Poland. The vice minister of finance of the People’s Republic of China is coming, too.

The purpose of the conference is to offer the opportunity to coordinate and establish processes of regional and global development, define the role of the middle income countries in the growth of prosperity, promote a sustainable environment and consider financing for sustainable economic development, said the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.

The U.N. Organization for Industrial Development is one of the sponsors.

Some of the countries are strong examples of what hampers development. Angola has seen various internal wars from 1961 to 2002. Civil war is disastrous for development in many ways, even though Colombia has managed to prosper and still fight a civil war, thanks to massive amounts of aid from the United States.

Costa Rica, the host, is a good example of weak institutions that prevent development. Property thefts have hurt real estate development here, and the courts are notoriously slow. The rule of law is a sometimes thing.

The United States, although not a middle income country, is a good example as it continues to slide in world indexes as bureaucracy, government agencies and mountains of rules  continue to stifle economic freedoms.

There are mixed views in academics on what corruption does to economic development. Intuitively, corruption is bad and takes the cream off the entrepreneur’s efforts. Transparency International believes this and produces an annual Corruption Perceptions Index.

But Chris Blattman, a Columbia University political science professor says that corruption can also grease the wheels of prosperity. He sees it as a voluntary tax to circumvent smothering rules and bureaucracy.

Certainly education is a key to development, and out-of-control schools where bullying is epidemic or where students and teachers do not show up has long-standing negative results.

Religion, too, has been considered a negative factor for development. The late thinker Christopher Hitchens, who also was an atheist, said the key to development was empowerment of women.

If you allow women some control over over their cycle of reproduction so they are not chained by their husbands or by village custom to annual animals cycles, pregnancies, early death, disease, he said, the entire level of the community or region will rise culturally, socially, medically and economically.

Costa Rica also provides an example of the effects of nepotism on development. There are close family relationships throughout politics, business, medicine and culture in this small country. Many of these individuals, whether in politics or some other area, sometimes think of the family before the needs of the public.

At the end of the conference Friday, there will be a statement released, Officials already are calling it the Declaración de San José, as if it would echo down through the ages. The question is how many of the true impediments to development will be addressed in this statement or will there just be a pitch for more money from the First World.

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