You are poor? We can make you lazy as well!

Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia and was the most violent city in the world in the 1980s and early 1990s, mainly fuelled by drug-related violence. It still isn’t much better now.

  • In 2009, an average of 9 people were murdered every day.
  • The homicide rate is 110 per 100,000 people, that is about 20 times as much as in the US.
  • With a nominal GDP per capita of 7,100 $ in 2010, Colombia is not exactly rich.
  • Inequality as well as income and wealth disparity are enormous. A Gini coefficient of 0.58 makes Colombia one of the world’s most unequal societies.
  • 45 % of Colombians live in poverty.

These data are much worse in Comuna 13, Medellin’s poorest and most dangerous district.

“That’s EXACTLY what we needed.”

If you were the city of Medellin, what would you invest in? Security? Economic infrastructure? Education? Jobs? No, there is something that poor people need much more urgently: escalators.

Escalators? That’s right. Because poor people might have seen escalators in a shopping mall and become jealous. Ok, the official reason is to provide a shorter way of transport up a steep hill for 12,000 inhabitants of Comuna 13. So far, they had to walk the 350 steps.

The costs for the project? 10 billion Colombian Pesos = 4 million Euro. That is 333 Euro per resident, with which they could surely finance something better to improve their lives.  Probably not even all 12,000 residents need or want to walk up this hill every day anyway. Alternatively, it is 11,400 Euro per step saved.

Why I think this is a bad idea:

  • As with any publicly financed project, it does not only have benefits (shorter commute for those residents who need to go up the hill) but it at least has the disadvantage of these 4 million Euro missing somewhere else.
  • The electricity bill will also consume money that could be spent otherwise.
  • The escalators were produced in China. The money could have been spent in Colombia instead, possibly even directly in Comuna 13.
  • The escalators won’t run around the clock. The city hasn’t decided yet on the final operating hours.
  • Rain will damage the escalators. Medellin has the climate of a tropical rainforest.
  • Escalators are more prone to vandalism than steps.

But my main criticism is this:

  • Riding escalators makes people lazy, fat and unhealthy.

“I am from Colombia.” (Mona Lisa by Fernando Botero)

Already 40 % of Colombians are overweight. Giving them incentives to stop walking up a few steps will only make this worse. Maybe a McDonald’s or a Burger King will be the next project right next to the escalators, so that Colombians can enjoy a burger and a coke while riding up and down the hill.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Economics, Health and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to You are poor? We can make you lazy as well!

  1. Pingback: Fausta's Blog » Blog Archive » Back to the escalator,

  2. Fausta says:

    Check out my follow-up post, Andreas, http://faustasblog.com/?p=28354

  3. Fausta says:

    It’s a talent I have :)

  4. Pingback: Back to the escalator, | FavStocks

  5. Pingback: Should An Escalator Be Considered Public Transportation? « The Gondola Project

  6. I know many hard-working poor people, and I have seen a lot of lazy rich people. Who is going to run all the Targets, Wal-mart, Mcdonalds, grocery stores, dept. stores, drive the school buses, collect your garbage, build your houses, cook and serve your food, clean your carpets, etc. You think those jobs pay good? And if those jobs even offer benefits such as insurance…it ends up sucking up most of their paycheck? People against a min. wage hike always say, “Those jobs are designed for high school students”…well who is supposed to run them when they are at school? Face it, these people are the bread and butter of America and you are being coerced in thinking they are just lazy. Not everyone can be Dr.’s and lawyers you know…if everyone was we would all starve and live in filth. Sure, there are people who take advantage of the system, but that is by no means the majority. How about appreciating the poor people who work 60 hrs a week doing crap jobs for next to nothing?

  7. Pingback: Plastic Surgery Statistics | The Happy Hermit

  8. andre says:

    im from colombia and actually this escalator HAS worked. it is easier for people to get to work so it helps improve the economy. the this is that people around the word are soo blind that they can not see that this type of ideas help improve the life quality of people. have you seen the situation in countries such as syria or nigeria? well i guess not…, btw you should… has the government done anything to protect their citizens? let me answer that… Absolutely not. so at least colombia is doing something to help their own people. they do have the operating hours defined and they are covered so rain won’t ruin them.before you judge and criticize you should do some research.
    lots of love dear ;)

    • Thank you!
      I have actually been to Syria, but even better: I am coming to Colombia in early 2016. I am very open to changing my opinions, as I have already done (and publicly admitted) a few times.

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