Costa Rica got mixed rankings on the recently released U.N. Human Development Index, which showed some parts of the country on par with developed countries such as Germany and others with human development levels similar to some developing African countries.
U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) Costa Rica representative José Manuel Hermida said the index showed great disparity among cantons. It was calculated using data from 2005 on life expectancy, education and economic wellbeing.
“In general terms, the human development index has improved (since the last one conducted in 2001). There are more cantons on a high level and less on a low level,” he said.
Hermida lamented that the canton of Talamanca, in the Caribbean province of Limón, showed human development levels similar to those of some of the poorest countries in Africa. The canton’s largely indigenous population has poor access to health, education and material goods.
Costa Rica has a total of 81 cantons divided into seven provinces, of which six ranked high on the human development index, 34 ranked medium, 40 ranked middle to low and one ranked low.
The cantons that scored lowest on the index were Upala and Los Chiles, near the Nicaraguan border; Matina, Pococí and Talamanca, in the Caribbean; and Buenos Aires and Coto Brus, in the Southern Zone.
Some of these cantons were on the same level as Botswana.
High on the other end of the spectrum is the canton of Escazú, west of San José, where real estate development in recent years has attracted businesses and higher income families, as well as nearby Santa Ana and Curridabat, east of San José.
These cantons show human development levels similar to developed countries such as Germany, Hermida said.
“What we have taken is a snapshot, empirical evidence of what exists. To be able to analyze the reasons for these inequalities, it’s necessary to research more,” he said.