The Gap Between Rich and Poor Hondurans

  • Written by  Jody Paterson

Something about being in the capital city of Honduras in the run-up to Christmas has really brought the income disparity issue home to me. I was in one of the big malls this week looking for books to take back to the Angelitos Felices kids as a gift, and seeing all those shiny US$25 children's books that rich Hondurans are buying for their own kids just made me really sad. The gap between the rich and the poor exists everywhere, of course. In Canada, the average income for the top 20 percent of the population is 5.5 times as much as the bottom 20 percent. But in Honduras, the top fifth earn almost 30 times as much as the bottom fifth. (In the US in 2012, incomes for the top one percent grew by 20 percent compared to a one percent growth for everybody else, creating the biggest income gap since the 1920s.)

How much wealth Honduras actually has is never clearer than when you're in Tegucigalpa, where the malls just keep getting bigger and the prices in the high-end designer stores are the same as what you'd find in the same store in New York City. The contrast is disconcerting. You could be dining at a super-flash Thai restaurant in the city listening to a fine jazz trio, even while the 14 kids at Angelitos back in Copán Ruinas are scratching by on the simplest diet imaginable in a children's home that regularly has neither electricity nor water because the woman who runs it can't afford to pay the bills.

 

I really hope the campesinos  that my organization works with never have to see just how rich Tegus is, because the one saving grace about being poor in Honduras is knowing that so many others are poor too that it's almost a normal state. I fear it just might break their hearts to see for themselves how unbelievably wealthy some of their countrymen are, including their political leaders.

 

Wealth distribution ought to be a subject that consumes all of us. The gap between the rich and poor is tied to every health indicator out there, and is a significant determinant of the future of a country. If Honduras just took two percent of the earnings of the top fifth and redistributed that money to the poorest fifth -- as education scholarships, for instance -- it would effectively increase their income by 40 percent. So much positive change at the bottom of the income scale, so little impact on those with the big money. But the rich and powerful in the country continue pocketing that wealth and leaving it to international development organizations to bail out Honduras' poor. Makes a person want to pack up the development tent and go home. (12/8/13) (photo courtesy Internet)

 

altNote: The author is a former journalist from Canada. She currently lives in the town of Copán Ruinas, Honduras, and volunteers with Cuso International, a Canadian development agency that matches skilled professionals to organizations in developing countries. She writes a blog called A Closer Look.

 

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