Just finished a week of traveling and studying the case of the brilliant but under-represented Nicaragua, just North of Costa Rica. During my time there I read Nicaragua: What Difference Could a Revolution Make? by the good people at FoodFirst Institute for Food and Development Policy, and The Open Veins of Latin America, a very incendiary telling of Latin America’s abusive colonial history. This, with my experiences on the field, lead to the main content and recommendations of this post.
How to develop a country?
First, one must understand a few conditions of the people here:
A. historical inequality: 40 years of Somoza dictatorship have lead to a popular revolution of the Sandanistas, who are now back in power.
B. low education: the “why’s it matter” question has to be taught before anything else, especially sustainability is instilled.
C. time process. History is still very much in the making here. (“Nicaragua is a school” -Eric Holtz-Gimenez) Thirty years out, this country will look like Costa Rica.
Now, what can be done?
Often, a small step towards what people need is enough to start them on the development ladder. I gave a microcredit loan through Kiva to a woman in Granada to start her home business, but also a set of clothes to a 21-year old I met on the street, who would probably have never had access to a program or work without them. The biggest thing is being there.
National strategies I narrowed down as follows:
1. Social programs targeted to the poor: the Sandanista government is known for it’s broad-based extension and credit programs, basic literacy and food security to the masses of people who go without. At the risk of being called socialist, they nationalize industry to control and subsidize the gains to the people.
2. Increase exports (globalization): the government of the country could focus on industry and increasing production. For example, a nationally owned steel mill could do wonders both for national self-sufficiency and export gains. In this case, the government would want to clear up all the election fraud allegations to create a safe haven for international investors and foreign-owned jobs. This is more the economic free-trade approach.
3. Tourism development: finally, the government could focus on creating an international marketing image. There is a lot of space in Nicaragua, and great volcanoes lakes and beaches that people DO want to visit if they knew about it. Unfortunately, the international community still sees Nicaragua as unstable and without direction, so people DONT come which fulfills their own prophecy. Under this case, you want to make sure tourism is developed sustainably with a management plan for example, and keep ownership in the hands of the people.
If any investors or businessmen out there are reading this blog, feel free to use any of the information contained within as a first-hand verified investment strategy. In any case, keep an eye on Nicaragua in the next 5 years as the Sandanista revolutionaries continue to develop a national unity, making Nicaragua an attractive player on the international scene.