RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – One hundred billion dollars.
That’s the amount that could be added to Brazil’s US$1.57 trillion gross domestic product by ending the violence in South America’s biggest country, according to the Global Peace Index (GPI), an annual report by Australia’s Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
“It is clear what we can economically gain with a culture of peace and a society with a good administration on public security,” says Nívio Nascimento, Official of Crime Prevention and Public Safety Unit of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “For instance, recently we had the cases of the Peacemaker Police Units (UPP) in some shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro that managed to reduce the armed confrontations in the city. And this has already increased the value of the properties in the neighborhoods.”
GPI is composed of 23 factors selected by an international panel of academics, business leaders, philanthropists and members of peace organizations.
Deaths in internal and external conflicts, relations with neighboring countries, criminality perception by society, number of homicides, level of respect for human rights, number of people in prisons, amount of officers and security forces, military expenditure, access to weapons and political stability are among the factors taken into consideration to form a nation’s GPI.
The study also takes into account infant mortality, life expectancy, freedom of the press, civil liberties and women’s presence in government.
Brazil is ranked 83rd among 149 countries in the fourth edition of the GPI, released earlier this year. In 2009, it ranked 85th. New Zealand finished atop the list for the second straight year.
Brazil ranks in the bottom half and “therefore has considerable opportunity to emulate the world’s more peaceful countries and recognize a sizeable economic gain,” according to the report.
GPI scale, which ranks countries from 1 (most peaceful) to 5 (least peaceful), produced an average score for the 149 countries of 2.02, up from 1.964 in 2009.
Higher rates of crime, the number of homicides and the perception of criminality in society, combined with easier access to firearms and a lower level of respect for human rights caused the GPI average to increase worldwide.
Study concludes high crime rate impacts country financially
“It is a waste of resources in security that could be used in other areas, such as education, which is the most important thing to guarantee a long term growth and social inclusion,” says researcher Daniel Cerqueira at the Ministry of Planning, Budget and Administration’s Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea).
Cerqueira, Rute Rodrigues, Alexandre Xavier Ywata de Carvalho and Waldir Lobão conducted Ipea’s research by analyzing the costs and consequences of violence in Brazil by scrutinizing public and private violence-related expenses.
The team included money spent on victims’ health care, the money lost if they couldn’t work, the level of public security, the cost of the prison system and private security, as well as the financial impacts of a person dying at a young age as the result of a crime, in their data.
In 2004, Brazil’s cost of violence was an estimated in R$92.2 billion (US$52.3 billion), which represented 5.09% of the year’s GDP.
“Of course it’s an exercise of imagination,” Cerqueira says. “If Brazil didn’t have internal violence it would gain ‘x’ extra resources. However, we have and we need financial resources to combat the current situation. The question is how those resources have been invested. If we double the amount and solve the problem it would be great, but if we spend this without any result it’s a waste of money.”
The best way to find out if the resources have been used wisely, Cerqueira says, is measuring, following, evaluating and presenting the data analysis with transparency to society.
Latin America less peaceful than in 2009
Latin America followed the trend of GPI. Among the 20 surveyed countries in the region, 15 became less peaceful than they were in 2009.
Among Latin American countries, Brazil is the 10th most peaceful, ahead of Peru (89 in the global ranking), Dominican Republic (93), Ecuador (101) and Mexico (107), but behind Nicaragua (64), Argentina (71), Paraguay (78) and Bolivia (81).
The most peaceful country in Latin America is Uruguay (24), followed by Costa Rica (26) and Chile (28).
The Latin American countries with the lowest ranking are Venezuela (122), Honduras (125) and Colombia (138).
Uruguay supplanted Chile as the most peaceful Latin American Country because Chile became more militarized and its homicide rate increased, causing its GPI to fall eight spots.
Costa Rica jumped three positions because of its lower militarization rate, improvement in the relations with neighboring countries and a drop in violent crime, according to the report.
Colombia remains the least peaceful Latin American nation due to high scores in the lack of safety and security and because it has become more militarized in its fight against narcotics that has spilled into neighboring nations, the IEP reported.
The financial impact of violence on the global economy is about US$7 trillion or 13.1% of the global GDP, according to the IEP.
“It is difficult to measure with fidelity a subject as that, especially when it involves countries with such different realities,” Nívio Nascimento says. “But the positive side is that publishing [the report] forces the governments to try to take measures to combat the problem, make people discuss the situation and it is a way of putting pressure.”