Bogotá, how did we do in 2021?

Bogotá food subsidies, during pandemic.

Bogotá’s eight million inhabitants had a lot on their minds in 2021, from job and food security, to insecurity, transportation and mobility infrastructure, and how to spend leisure time in the Colombian capital while most cultural activities, restaurants and bars were gradually reactivating during the second year of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the most recent report released by Bogotá Como Vamos (Bogotá how are we doing), the vast majority of residents were worried about crime, with eight out of 10 persons surveyed, feeling more insecure than over the previous year. This very negative perception of insecurity has continued into 2022, despite heightened security  measures by the district administration, including more police presence on city streets.

Edition 24 of a report that is part of the District’s Development Plan and Sustainable Development Goals, evaluated 94 key sectors that impacted the well-being and coexistence of Bogotanos. While 2021 marked a return for many to working environments, the city’s business ecosystem began to reactivate with some 28,000 new companies and lowering of the formal unemployment rate to 17.8%. While 19 per cent of those surveyed believed their economic conditions improved over 2020, this number is hardly a surprise given that as of late March that same year, the city entered strict lock down and those who were kept on a company payroll, or could afford to work virtually, did not feel the full economic brunt of extended quarantine.

The disturbing statistic is that more than 40 per cent of the informal workforce claim to have lost their jobs, and while extreme poverty rates in the capital improved given the constant flow of local and state subsidies to the most vulnerable households, the gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions also contributed to improved mental health among residents.

Improved mental health was accompanied by a lowering in suicides, domestic violence and overwhelming perception among the population that COVID-19 vaccines offered immunity against severe illness and death. During 2021, the vaccine roll reached 76% of Bogotá’s eligible population with double dose schemes, and this, was also accompanied by a lifting of vaccine mandates in cultural and sporting venues. With economic reactivation, 41 per cent of Bogotanos returned to public parks, visited shopping centers (35%), picked up a book (35%) and went to the movies (21%). More than 30 per cent of residents said they felt satisfied with the cultural, sports and recreational offering in the city.

There is one pitfall in this report, however, worth noting. Despite the city’s 9 per cent GDP growth in 2021, more job creation and lowering of multidimensional poverty 1.8 points, Bogotanos feel the capital to be more unequal in terms of income and cost of living compared to other Colombian cities. “This is a call to action for all civil society, public sector, academia, to contribute to making the capital more sustainable,” highlighted the director of Bogotá Como Vamos, Felipe Mariño.

Included in the sustainability goals, is creating a “rights-based society,” free of discrimination and inclusive to migrants. “The pandemic allowed us to advance in social inclusion and citizen participation, “ believes BCV’s Diego Maldonado. “And to see the importance of experimentation in public policy.”

Experimentation that for many has come with a high-cost in terms of deteriorating public services, broken infrastructure and a worrisome homicide rate, that in 2021, stood at 14 per 100,000 residents.