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Why Is Chile Better Than China?

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The successful rescue of 33 trapped miners in Chile is but another manifestation of the might of human determination. People can do anything if they have the will power and support of their loved ones -- and their government -- as was evident in this evacuation. Add sheer determination to the old adage of "love conquers all" and you will have the perfect description for the mine rescue.

So does that mean that countries with poor mine safety standards have no love for their citizens? It's hard to reach a conclusion but one can infer that in some cases without much difficulty, especially if one is discussing China.

CNN reports that 2,631 Chinese coal miners lost their lives in 2009, citing figures from the China Daily. The worst year was 2002, when 6,995 miners succumbed to poor safety standards. The United States, on the other hand, saw 34 deaths in mine collapse and other accidents in 2009.

The Strait Times of Singapore quoted a Chinese user on popular web portal sohu.com saying, "Lucky people who were born in Chile... If it was us, we would definitely have been buried alive and died." One of the worst mining disasters in this decade came in September 2008 when a mudslide caused by the collapse of a mine waste reservoir in northern China killed 254 people.

Accidents are also common in other parts of the world, including India, but not at par with the Chinese disaster zone. They would have been significantly higher in Pakistan, too, had there been a large number of coal mines in this country. But we could still have used the lame excuse of being a dirt poor country with no resources to carry out the rescue.

How is it that China, the world's second largest economy, is unable to rescue its miners and loses thousands of people each year in those accidents?

According to 2009 data of the UN Human Development Index, Chile has a value of 0.878 and GDP per captia of $13,880 with an adult literacy rate of 96.5%, and life expectancy of 78.5 years.

By comparison, China has an HDI Index of 0.772 and GDP per capita of $5,283 with an average literacy rate of 93.3%, and life expectancy of 72.9 years.

According to World Bank data, China had a GDP of $4.98 trillion in 2009, with Chile earning $163.7 billion in the same period. While the latter has been able to improve the lives of its citizens with the money earned, the former is not doing enough to provide its citizens with good quality of life.

This begs a question. If China can spend billions of dollars on defense -- $78 billion according to latest reports -- and space programs, then shouldn't it allocate a few hundred million dollars for its beleaguered miners? Chile has truly set an example and the world will closely watching China, and other countries, when -- God forbid -- the next mining disaster happens.