Guatemala has remarkably unequal distributions of income, resources and opportunities. Fortunately, Guatemala also has significant potential to accelerate broad-based economic growth and poverty reduction through trade, regional integration, and tourism. Some business sector leaders are energetically engaged in initiatives to extend education and achieve universal access to basic health care.
Poverty and extreme poverty are highly concentrated in rural areas and among indigenous communities. Almost 60 per cent of the population live in rural areas; 81 per cent of rural people are indigenous. The country’s high rates of illiteracy, infant mortality and infant malnourishment are even higher among rural indigenous peoples.
One of the main causes of poverty in the country is lack of access to productive resources, especially land and water.
Guatemala’s topography and its 23 languages complicate efforts to expand education and health services, and contribute to an extremely low rate of labour productivity. Agriculture, which employs most of the poor, was particularly hard hit from the combined impacts of the worldwide economic downturn in the world coffee and cardamom markets.