Through various initiatives, the private sector is supporting an economic and social agenda through an open and inclusive dialogue based on public policy advocacy. This dialogue is an effort to build consensus on a national plan, working with civil society leaders, indigenous authorities and the government to build a more prosperous, supportive, secure and just nation.
In the last year, some programs have focused on improving two of the most negative problems limiting Guatemala’s development: chronic malnutrition and the quality of education.
Guatemala’s social indicators show deficiencies in basic primary health care, and especially chronic malnutrition, which affects 49.8% of children aged 3-59 months. This is the highest rate in the Americas and the fifth highest in the world.
Civil society and private sector leaders (including the Bosch Gutierrez family) are leading efforts to reduce that rate in a coordinated effort that supports the government’s Zero Hunger Pact, an effort to reduce chronic malnutrition, infant mortality and promote food security in 166 priority municipalities, including across all 1,000 municipalities.
The four key drivers of this effort are: actions directly focused on public policy; communication; food fortification and fortification; and initiatives to promote maternal and child nutrition, access to nutritious food, and methods to curb food loss or waste.
In education, the focus has been on increasing the number of years children attend school. On average, Guatemalan children only attend school for 4.1 years. Central to these efforts is the Ministry of Education’s reform to improve the quality of the education system, as only 8 percent of graduates pass standardized math tests and only 26 percent pass reading tests, according to the Ministry.
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The social program’s actions include monitoring education in rural areas through technology, such as smartphone and tablet apps, to ensure that teachers show up to work and teach at least 180 days a year.
New models are also being introduced to improve the way children read, in addition to providing special training for teachers, knowledge-based apps through smartphones and tablets, more computers and Internet-based programs in schools, and keeping standardized test scores public so that more parents can be involved in their children’s education.
As migration to the United States and other countries continues, the main objective of institutions such as FUNDESA and CACIF is to develop a sustainable strategy to attract more foreign direct investment and increase women’s participation in the economy. That effort is starting to pay off, as Guatemala’s economic growth closed last year at 3.7 percent, foreign direct investment increased by 5 percent, and the country improved 14 positions in the Doing Business index, according to the World Bank.
Things are starting to improve in Guatemala; we all need to continue working together and supporting the different efforts to increase economic growth and social inclusion.