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Report: Drug Trafficking Hinders Economic Growth in Developing Countries - 2003-02-25

A new report by the United Nations' International Narcotics Control Board says that the most damaging effects of illicit drugs are on the long-term economies of developing nations.

The Control Board's annual report recognizes that illegal drugs create serious social problems in developed nations. But the report says the stress on social problems often overlooks the major impact of illegal crop cultivation on economies. According to the annual survey, the production of cocaine and heroin is stunting economic growth in developing nations.

Illegal crop cultivation can provide jobs for farmers and workers in processing laboratories, giving a short-term boost to developing economies. But the report finds the overwhelming share of profits made in the international narcotics trade are reaped by the nations where drugs are sold and consumed. The report says farmers who grow illegal crops earn one percent of the money ultimately spent on drugs while 99 percent is earned by narco-traffickers.

Philip Emafo, the Board's president, cited Colombia as one example of a nation where economic growth declined in spite of increases in coca bush cultivation. Afghanistan, he said, is another example.

"Evidence suggests that Afghanistan witnessed negative economic growth and instability from the time it first engaged in large scale illicit opium-poppy cultivation," he pointed out. "In contrast, Pakistan recorded the strongest economic growth rate at the time when opium production declined significantly."

Mr. Emafo said that global production of illicit drugs increased 35 percent in the last two years. Afghanistan is once again the world's largest opium producer, followed by Burma and Laos.

The International Narcotics Control Board is made up of 13 members elected by the U.N. Economic and Social Council.