Guatemala position in Central America

Our Programs

Bright New Ideas is involved in Guatemala through our partnership with Macalester College.  While Guatemala is the largest Central American country in terms of population and economic activity, its largely rural, Mayan population lives in extremely difficult conditions. Distribution of land, income and other wealth is highly skewed toward a small percentage of Guatemala’s Spanish-speaking population. The roughly five million Mayans are isolated socially, economically, and politically due to geographic and language barriers as well as the lack of educational and economic opportunities.  Guatemala’s major challenges include its large income disparity and separation between the large, poor rural agrarian class and the relatively small and richer urban industrialized class.  Guatemala is a land with many different languages, making childhood education a continuous challenge.  Our objective in partnership with Macalester college is to design and execute randomized study to investigate if the lamps can be used as conditional incentives to improve rural education outcomes.

Guatemala Economy Snapshot

According to the CIA World Factbook:

Guatemala is the most populous of the Central American countries with a GDP per capita roughly one-half that of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. The agricultural sector accounts for about one-tenth of GDP and half of the labor force; key agricultural exports include coffee, sugar, and bananas. The 1996 signing of peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment, and Guatemala since then has pursued important reforms and macroeconomic stabilization. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) entered into force in July 2006 spurring increased investment and diversification of exports, with the largest increases in ethanol and non-traditional agricultural exports. While CAFTA has helped improve the investment climate, concerns over security, the lack of skilled workers and poor infrastructure continue to hamper foreign participation. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with more than half of the population below the national poverty line and 15% in extreme poverty. Guatemala has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Other ongoing challenges include increasing government revenues, negotiating further assistance from international donors, curtailing drug trafficking and rampant crime, and narrowing the trade deficit. President COLOM entered into office with the promise to increase education, healthcare, and rural development, and in April 2008 he inaugurated a conditional financial transfer program modeled after programs in Brazil and Mexico that provide financial incentives for poor families to keep their children in school. Given Guatemala’s large expatriate community in the United States, it is the top remittance recipient in Central America, with inflows serving as a primary source of foreign income equivalent to nearly two-thirds of exports. Economic growth turned negative in 2009 as export demand from US and other Central American markets contracted and foreign investment slowed amid the global recession and economic recovery will probably be negligible in 2010.

Guatemala Statistics

Population 13 Million
Land Mass (Sq Miles) 42,042
People per Sq Mile 311
Life Expectancy 70 years
Under Age 5 Morality Rate 4.1%
Literacy Rate 69%
Access to safe water 95%
Average Annual Income (USD) $2,640
% Below Poverty Level 15%
% Access to Electricity (rural) 25%
Rural Population % 50%
Per Capita Energy kWh (2006) 513
Unemployment % N/A
Primary Education Enrollment 88%
CO2 Emissions Per Capita 0.9 metric tons