Is any one country the richest in the world? The title is subjective, and it really depends on what one counts as riches. Wealth can simply refer to cold hard cash, but it may also be counted as nature’s bounteous beauty, natural resources or human resources.
Peru, the third largest country in South America, with a size of 1,285,220 sq km (496,226 sq mi), is marketing itself in the international tourism field—spending huge amounts of money on very well-made advertisements that air on prime-time American television—with the tagline: ‘Visit Peru: The richest country in the world’. This is not really true; Peru has a high poverty rate. According to data published by the Peruvian government last month, the poverty rate rose last year for the first time in 16 years to 21.7 percent an increase of one percentage point. It was stated that while the country’s economy has shown significant growth compared to its South American neighbours, some 6.9 million of its approximately 32 million population now live in poverty, nearly 400,000 more than 16 years ago. But having snagged the ‘richest country’ tagline, Peru is proving that it is also wealthy in ideas.
The country has a rich and well-known history. It was home to the Incan empire which flourished between 1400 and 1533 it is believed, as a well-established civilisation—said to be the largest in the world at that time—and was famous for its unique art, architecture, adaptation of natural landscapes and agronomy. It unfortunately collapsed after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, led by Francisco Pizarro, who brought with them war and communicable diseases.
Tourists have long been attracted to Peru because of its ancient Inca ruins, the most famous one being the impressive Machu Picchu. There are several others that are also breathtaking, along with other natural wonders, including the Amazon rainforest and the more recently touted rainbow mountains. Well-kept towns and cities where old and modern Peru coexist, beach resorts and nightlife are among what the country offers visitors, who travel from Europe and the United States, thousands of miles away.
For all its pull, tourism is only Peru’s third largest industry, fishing and mining being the second and first respectively. Globally, Peru is the number two copper producer and the sixth largest producer of gold.
But the country also has other real income-earning industries. It exports around 410,000 tonnes of avocados a year and has a six percent hold on the US market, where over one billion pounds are consumed annually.
In terms of direct foreign investment, it has attracted Pure Biofuels Corp, a US-based company, which has set up a subsidiary that produces bio-diesel and provides marketing and storage services for clean liquid fuels. Its operational capacity is 270 million gallons of biofuels, which includes biodiesel and ethanol. Much of this fuel is used in country as Peru promotes the use of dual-fuel cars. The country, like ours, is vulnerable to climate change and last month signed into law, a bill that aims to reduce carbon emissions and develop strategies to reduce harmful effects of climate change on the Peruvian landscape, which has suffered from deforestation.
More than that, in its bid to focus on green living, the government recently announced its intention to phase out the use of plastic bags and is working up towards implementing a ban. To replace them, researchers are occupied with developing biodegradable bags, cups and food containers that will be made mostly of potato starch; the idea is that they will be durable but edible.
Over the years, Peru has constantly been faced with fraud in government. Notable, are former presidents Alberto Fujimori who was jailed in 2009 for election rigging and corruption, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who was forced to resign just earlier this year also over corruption. So far, it has not seen the level of disturbances that have been rife and damaging in some other Latin American countries; graft though present, has not damaged the economy as much as it could have as it is clear that no one is above the law.
In a literal sense, Peru is definitely not the richest country in the world, nor is it the best, but can it teach its South American neighbours something? Most definitely.