Newsweek’s right-wing Latin American correspondent Mac Margolis (7/2/10) is once again playing games with statistics. After the obligatory attack on Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez as a “chest-thumping autocrat,” Margolis gets down to the business of praising his favorite Latin American country, Colombia, as a country that deserves “lead billing” among the “new stars of the emerging markets”:
In the past eight years, the Andean nation has gone from dud to dynamo: foreign investment has risen 250percent. Its stock index is up 15percent this year, and 35percent (versus Brazil’s 14percent) over the decade.
Since Margolis makes the comparison between Colombia and Brazil, let’s look at a more meaningful one: In 2000, per capita GDP in Colombia was $6,200, and Brazil’s was $6,150 (figures adjusted for purchasing power). In 2009, the last year available, Colombia’s was $8,200, and Brazil’s was $9,400. So Brazilians, who started the century just slightly behind Colombia in economic output, are now 13 percent ahead–regardless of how well those nations’ stock investors are doing.
On top of that, Colombia is “the only major country in Latin America in which the gap between rich and poor has increased in recent years,” as the Washington Post‘s Juan Forero (4/19/10) reported, citing the U.N. Economic Commission on Latin America. Twenty-three percent of Colombians live in extreme poverty, versus 7 percent of Brazilians, according to the UN.
It seems that Margolis picks his “duds” and “dynamos” based on ideology, not economics.