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Colombia Historical and Political Profile

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Colombia Index

  • Colombia-Administration and Finance
  • Colombia-Middle Class
  • Colombia-SOCIETY
  • Colombia-The Leticia Conflict
  • Colombia-Relations with the United States
  • Colombia-Chapter 2 - The Society and Its Environment
  • Colombia-The 19th of April Movement
  • Colombia-Opposition to the National Front
  • Colombia-Foreword
  • Colombia-AGRICULTURE
  • Colombia-The National Army
  • Colombia-Instituting the Coalition Government
  • Colombia-Geopolitical Interests
  • Colombia-ECONOMY
  • Colombia-Caribbean Lowlands
  • Colombia-Primary Education
  • Colombia-Treaty Obligations
  • Colombia-Conscription and Military Service
  • Colombia-Minor Third Parties
  • Colombia-The Church in Society
  • Colombia-RELIGION
  • Colombia-Contemporary Trends
  • Colombia-Forestry and Fishing
  • Colombia-The Colonial Economy
  • Colombia-The Rojas Pinilla Dictatorship
  • Colombia-COUNTRY
  • Colombia-GEOGRAPHY
  • Colombia-Dismantling the Coalition Apparatus
  • Colombia-The Politics of Health: Priorities, Institutions, and Public Policy
  • Colombia-The Liberal Tenure
  • Colombia-The Reyes Presidency THE PERIOD OF RECONCILIATION, 1903-30
  • Colombia-Professionalization Efforts
  • Colombia-The Development of the Modern Armed Forces
  • Colombia-The Lower Class and the Masses
  • Colombia-Andean Highlands
  • Colombia-Public Administration
  • Colombia-INDUSTRY
  • Colombia-Developments Leading to Independence
  • Colombia-Chapter 1 - Historical Setting
  • Colombia-The Colonial Church
  • Colombia-Colonial Administration
  • Colombia-Secondary and University Education
  • Colombia-Historical Background
  • Colombia-Economic and Social Change
  • Colombia-Balance of Payments
  • Colombia-SOCIAL CLASS
  • Colombia-The Independence Movement
  • Colombia-SERVICES
  • Colombia-Guerrilla and Terrorist Groups
  • Colombia-Chapter 3 - The Economy
  • Colombia-The Federalists
  • Colombia-The Electoral System
  • Colombia-The Church
  • Colombia-News Media
  • Colombia-The National Navy
  • Colombia-National Health Care System
  • Colombia-Tourism
  • Colombia-The Pre-Columbian Era THE SPANISH CONQUEST
  • Colombia-Narcotics Control and Interdiction
  • Colombia-Colombia
  • Colombia-Consolidation of Political Divisions
  • Colombia-The Penal System
  • Colombia-Geographic Regions
  • Colombia-Economic Growth MACROECONOMIC TRENDS
  • Colombia-Constitutional Development THE GOVERNMENTAL SYSTEM
  • Colombia-Interest Groups
  • Colombia-Students
  • Colombia-Utilities
  • Colombia-The National Liberation Army
  • Colombia-Foreign Policy Decision Making
  • Colombia-Chapter 5 - National Security
  • Colombia-Petroleum
  • Colombia-Military Expenditures
  • Colombia-Post-National Front Political Developments
  • Colombia-Constitutional Authority and the Legal Basis of the Armed Forces
  • Colombia-The Judiciary
  • Colombia-Population Trends
  • Colombia-Factionalism
  • Colombia-EDUCATION
  • Colombia-Coal
  • Colombia-The Erosion of Partisan Affiliations THE POST-NATIONAL FRONT PERIOD, 1974-82
  • Colombia-Inflation and Unemployment
  • Colombia-The Golfo de Venezuela and Islas Los Monjes
  • Colombia-Local Government
  • Colombia-Resource Allocation
  • Colombia-Urban Wages
  • Colombia-Chapter 4 - Government and Politics
  • Colombia-The Establishment of United States Military Ties
  • Colombia-Social Security
  • Colombia-Relations with Latin America
  • Colombia-Isla de San Andrés and Isla de Providencia
  • Colombia
  • Colombia-The Popular Liberation Army
  • Colombia-Foreign Military Influence
  • Colombia
  • Colombia-The Labor Movement
  • Colombia-The Executive
  • Colombia-Traditional Parties POLITICAL DYNAMICS
  • Colombia-The Command Structure THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ARMED FORCES
  • Colombia-Crops
  • Colombia-The Nationalists
  • Colombia-Relations with World Organizations
  • Colombia-Climate
  • Colombia-Transportation and Communications
  • Colombia-COLONIAL SOCIETY, 1550-1810
  • Colombia-General Indicators of Health
  • Colombia-Labor Unions
  • Colombia-Operational Command, Deployment, and Equipment
  • Colombia-The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
  • Colombia-Livestock
  • Colombia-Historical Background
  • Colombia-Relations with Communist Countries
  • Colombia-Relations with Other Nations
  • Colombia-Foreign Trade
  • Colombia-Parastatal Management
  • Colombia-THE REFORMIST PERIOD, 1930-45
  • Colombia-Historical Development
  • Colombia-Exploration and Conquest
  • Colombia-Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia
  • Colombia-The Legislature
  • Colombia-Economic Associations
  • Colombia-The Legacy of La Violencia
  • Colombia-PREFACE
  • Colombia-FAMILY LIFE
  • Colombia-Banking
  • Colombia-The Political Role of the Armed Forces
  • Colombia-Direction of Trade
  • Colombia-Fiscal and Monetary Policy
  • Colombia-La Violencia
  • Colombia-Rural Wages
  • Colombia-Trends Within the Church since the 1940s
  • Colombia-Civic Action, Counterinsurgency, and Internal Security
  • Colombia-New Granada
  • Colombia-Upper Class
  • Colombia
  • Colombia
  • Colombia-Gran Colombia
  • Colombia-Crime and Political Violence
  • Colombia-Foreign Debt
  • Colombia-The Military
  • Colombia-THE FOUNDING OF THE NATION, 1810-1903
  • Colombia-Urbanization, Migration, and Immigration
  • Colombia-The Military Education System
  • Colombia-THE NATIONAL FRONT, 1958-74
  • Colombia
  • BackgroundColombia was one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others are Ecuador and Venezuela). A four-decade long conflict between government forces and anti-government insurgent groups, principally the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) heavily funded by the drug trade, escalated during the 1990s. The insurgents lack the military or popular support necessary to overthrow the government and violence has been decreasing since about 2002, but insurgents continue attacks against civilians and large areas of the countryside are under guerrilla influence or are contested by security forces. More than 31,000 former paramilitaries had demobilized by the end of 2006 and the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) as a formal organization had ceased to function. In the wake of the paramilitary demobilization, emerging criminal groups arose, whose members include some former paramilitaries. The Colombian Government has stepped up efforts to reassert government control throughout the country, and now has a presence in every one of its administrative departments. However, neighboring countries worry about the violence spilling over their borders.
    LocationNorthern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama
    Area(sq km)total: 1,138,914 sq km
    land: 1,109,104 sq km
    water: 100,210 sq km
    note: includes Isla de Malpelo, Roncador Cay, and Serrana Bank
    Geographic coordinates4 00 N, 72 00 W
    Land boundaries(km)total: 6,309 km
    border countries: Brazil 1,644 km, Ecuador 590 km, Panama 225 km, Peru 1,800 km, Venezuela 2,050 km

    Coastline(km)3,208 km (Caribbean Sea 1,760 km, North Pacific Ocean 1,448 km)

    Climatetropical along coast and eastern plains; cooler in highlands

    Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
    highest point: Pico Cristobal Colon 5,775 m
    note: nearby Pico Simon Bolivar also has the same elevation
    Natural resourcespetroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, nickel, gold, copper, emeralds, hydropower
    Land use(%)arable land: 2.01%
    permanent crops: 1.37%
    other: 96.62% (2005)

    Irrigated land(sq km)9,000 sq km (2003)
    Total renewable water resources(cu km)2,132 cu km (2000)
    Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 10.71 cu km/yr (50%/4%/46%)
    per capita: 235 cu m/yr (2000)
    Natural hazardshighlands subject to volcanic eruptions; occasional earthquakes; periodic droughts
    Environment - current issuesdeforestation; soil and water quality damage from overuse of pesticides; air pollution, especially in Bogota, from vehicle emissions
    Environment - international agreementsparty to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
    signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
    Geography - noteonly South American country with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea
    Population45,644,023 (July 2009 est.)
    Age structure(%)0-14 years: 28.9% (male 6,679,701/female 6,522,976)
    15-64 years: 65.4% (male 14,571,536/female 15,297,179)
    65 years and over: 5.6% (male 1,103,391/female 1,469,240) (2009 est.)
    Median age(years)total: 27.1 years
    male: 26.1 years
    female: 28 years (2009 est.)
    Population growth rate(%)1.377% (2009 est.)
    Birth rate(births/1,000 population)19.57 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
    Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)5.54 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

    Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-0.26 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
    Urbanization(%)urban population: 74% of total population (2008)
    rate of urbanization: 1.7% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
    Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
    under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
    15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
    total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
    Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 18.9 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 22.53 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 15.14 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

    Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 72.81 years
    male: 68.98 years
    female: 76.76 years (2009 est.)

    Total fertility rate(children born/woman)2.46 children born/woman (2009 est.)
    Nationalitynoun: Colombian(s)
    adjective: Colombian
    Ethnic groups(%)mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%

    Religions(%)Roman Catholic 90%, other 10%

    Country nameconventional long form: Republic of Colombia
    conventional short form: Colombia
    local long form: Republica de Colombia
    local short form: Colombia
    Government typerepublic; executive branch dominates government structure
    Capitalname: Bogota
    geographic coordinates: 4 36 N, 74 05 W
    time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    Administrative divisions32 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 1 capital district* (distrito capital); Amazonas, Antioquia, Arauca, Atlantico, Bogota*, Bolivar, Boyaca, Caldas, Caqueta, Casanare, Cauca, Cesar, Choco, Cordoba, Cundinamarca, Guainia, Guaviare, Huila, La Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Narino, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Quindio, Risaralda, San Andres y Providencia, Santander, Sucre, Tolima, Valle del Cauca, Vaupes, Vichada
    Constitution5 July 1991; amended many times

    Legal systembased on Spanish law; a new criminal code modeled after US procedures was enacted into law in 2004 and reached full implementation in January 2008; judicial review of executive and legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

    Suffrage18 years of age; universal
    Executive branchchief of state: President Alvaro URIBE Velez (since 7 August 2002); Vice President Francisco SANTOS Calderon (since 7 August 2002); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
    head of government: President Alvaro URIBE Velez (since 7 August 2002); Vice President Francisco SANTOS Calderon (since 7 August 2002)
    cabinet: Cabinet consists of a coalition of the three largest parties that supported President URIBE's reelection - the PSUN, PC, and CR - and independents
    elections: president and vice president elected by popular vote for a four-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 28 May 2006 (next to be held in May 2010)
    election results: President Alvaro URIBE Velez reelected president; percent of vote - Alvaro URIBE Velez 62%, Carlos GAVIRIA Diaz 22%, Horacio SERPA Uribe 12%, other 4%

    Legislative branchbicameral Congress or Congreso consists of the Senate or Senado (102 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) and the House of Representatives or Camara de Representantes (166 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
    elections: Senate - last held 12 March 2006 (next to be held in March 2010); House of Representatives - last held 12 March 2006 (next to be held in March 2010)
    election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PSUN 20, PC 18, PL 18, CR 15, PDI 10, other parties 21; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PL 35, PSUN 33, PC 29, CR 20, PDA 8, other parties 41

    Judicial branchfour roughly coequal, supreme judicial organs; Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (highest court of criminal law; judges are selected by their peers from the nominees of the Superior Judicial Council for eight-year terms); Council of State (highest court of administrative law; judges are selected from the nominees of the Superior Judicial Council for eight-year terms); Constitutional Court (guards integrity and supremacy of the constitution; rules on constitutionality of laws, amendments to the constitution, and international treaties); Superior Judicial Council (administers and disciplines the civilian judiciary; resolves jurisdictional conflicts arising between other courts; members are elected by three sister courts and Congress for eight-year terms)

    Political pressure groups and leadersNational Liberation Army or ELN; Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC
    note: two largest insurgent groups active in Colombia
    International organization participationBCIE, CAN, Caricom (observer), CDB, FAO, G-3, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur (associate), MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNASUR, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
    Flag descriptionthree horizontal bands of yellow (top, double-width), blue, and red
    note: similar to the flag of Ecuador, which is longer and bears the Ecuadorian coat of arms superimposed in the center

    Economy - overviewColombia has experienced accelerating growth between 2002 and 2007, with expansion above 7% in 2007, chiefly due to advancements in domestic security, to rising commodity prices, and to President URIBE's promarket economic policies. Colombia's sustained growth helped reduce poverty by 20% and cut unemployment by 25% since 2002. Additionally, investor friendly reforms to Colombia's hydrocarbon sector and the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) negotiations have attracted record levels of foreign investment. Inequality, underemployment,and narcotrafficking remain significant challenges, and Colombia's infrastructure requires significant updating in order to sustain expansion. Economic growth slipped in 2008 as a result of the global financial crisis and weakening demand for Colombia's exports. In response, URIBE's administration has cut capital controls, arranged for emergency credit lines from multilateral institutions, and promoted investment incentives such as Colombia's modernized free trade zone mechanism, legal stability contracts, and new bilateral investment treaties and trade agreements. The government has also encouraged exporters to diversify their customer base away from the United States and Venezuela, Colombia's largest trading partners. Nevertheless, the business sector continues to be concerned about the impact of a global recession on Colombia's exports, as well as the approval of the CTPA, which is stalled in the US Congress.
    GDP (purchasing power parity)$396 billion (2008 est.)
    $386.7 billion (2007 est.)
    $359.7 billion (2006 est.)
    note: data are in 2008 US dollars
    GDP (official exchange rate)$240.8 billion (2008 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate(%)2.4% (2008 est.)
    7.5% (2007 est.)
    6.9% (2006 est.)
    GDP - per capita (PPP)$9,200 (2008 est.)
    $9,100 (2007 est.)
    $8,600 (2006 est.)
    note: data are in 2008 US dollars
    GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 9%
    industry: 38.1%
    services: 52.9% (2008 est.)
    Labor force21.3 million (2008 est.)

    Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 22.4%
    industry: 18.8%
    services: 58.8% (2005 est.)
    Unemployment rate(%)11.3% (2008 est.)
    11.2% (2007 est.)
    Population below poverty line(%)49.2% (2005)
    Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 0.8%
    highest 10%: 45.9% (2006)
    Distribution of family income - Gini index53.8 (2005)
    57.1 (1996)
    Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)24.3% of GDP (2008 est.)
    Budgetrevenues: $83.22 billion
    expenditures: $82.92 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2008 est.)
    Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)7% (2008 est.)
    5.5% (2007 est.)

    Stock of money$21.58 billion (31 December 2008)
    $21.81 billion (31 December 2007)
    Stock of quasi money$26.57 billion (31 December 2008)
    $27.25 billion (31 December 2007)
    Stock of domestic credit$89.69 billion (31 December 2008)
    $85.34 billion (31 December 2007)
    Market value of publicly traded shares$87.03 billion (31 December 2008)
    $102 billion (31 December 2007)
    $56.2 billion (31 December 2006)
    Economic aid - recipient$511.1 million (2005)

    Public debt(% of GDP)42.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
    51.8% of GDP (2004 est.)
    Agriculture - productscoffee, cut flowers, bananas, rice, tobacco, corn, sugarcane, cocoa beans, oilseed, vegetables; forest products; shrimp
    Industriestextiles, food processing, oil, clothing and footwear, beverages, chemicals, cement; gold, coal, emeralds

    Industrial production growth rate(%)0.8% (2008 est.)

    Current account balance-$6.712 billion (2008 est.)
    -$5.838 billion (2007 est.)
    Exports$38.53 billion (2008 est.)
    $30.58 billion (2007 est.)

    Exports - commodities(%)petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, emeralds, apparel, bananas, cut flowers
    Exports - partners(%)US 38%, Venezuela 16.2%, Ecuador 4% (2008)
    Imports$37.56 billion (2008 est.)
    $31.17 billion (2007 est.)

    Imports - commodities(%)industrial equipment, transportation equipment, consumer goods, chemicals, paper products, fuels, electricity
    Imports - partners(%)US 29.2%, China 11.5%, Mexico 7.9%, Brazil 5.9% (2008)

    Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$23.67 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $20.95 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
    Debt - external$46.38 billion (31 December 2008)
    $44.55 billion (31 December 2007)

    Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$67.23 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $56.45 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
    Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$13.18 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $10.93 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
    Exchange ratesColombian pesos (COP) per US dollar - 2,243.6 (2008), 2,013.8 (2007), 2,358.6 (2006), 2,320.75 (2005), 2,628.61 (2004)

    Currency (code)Colombian peso (COP)

    Telephones - main lines in use6.82 million (2008)
    Telephones - mobile cellular41.365 million (2008)
    Telephone systemgeneral assessment: modern system in many respects; telecommunications sector liberalized during the 1990s; multiple providers of both fixed-line and mobile-cellular services; fixed-line connections stand at about 15 per 100 persons; mobile cellular telephone subscribership is about 90 per 100 persons; competition among cellular service providers is resulting in falling local and international calling rates and contributing to the steep decline in the market share of fixed line services
    domestic: nationwide microwave radio relay system; domestic satellite system with 41 earth stations; fiber-optic network linking 50 cities
    international: country code - 57; submarine cables provide links to the US, parts of the Caribbean, and Central and South America; satellite earth stations - 10 (6 Intelsat, 1 Inmarsat, 3 fully digitalized international switching centers) (2008)
    Internet country code.co
    Internet users17.117 million (2008)
    Airports992 (2009)
    Pipelines(km)gas 4,560 km; oil 6,094 km; refined products 3,383 km (2008)
    Roadways(km)total: 164,257 km (2005)

    Ports and terminalsBarranquilla, Buenaventura, Cartagena, Santa Marta, Turbo
    Military branchesNational Army (Ejercito Nacional), National Navy (Armada Nacional, includes Naval Aviation, Naval Infantry (Infanteria de Marina, IM), and Coast Guard), Colombian Air Force (Fuerza Aerea de Colombia, FAC) (2008)
    Military service age and obligation(years of age)18-24 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; service obligation - 18 months (2004)
    Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 11,478,109
    females age 16-49: 11,809,279 (2008 est.)
    Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 8,212,944
    females age 16-49: 10,045,435 (2009 est.)
    Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 446,432
    female: 437,164 (2009 est.)
    Military expenditures(% of GDP)3.4% of GDP (2005 est.)
    Disputes - internationalin December 2007, ICJ allocates San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina islands to Colombia under 1928 Treaty but does not rule on 82 degrees W meridian as maritime boundary with Nicaragua; managed dispute with Venezuela over maritime boundary and Venezuelan-administered Los Monjes Islands near the Gulf of Venezuela; Colombian-organized illegal narcotics, guerrilla, and paramilitary activities penetrate all neighboring borders and have caused Colombian citizens to flee mostly into neighboring countries; Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and the US assert various claims to Bajo Nuevo and Serranilla Bank

    Refugees and internally displaced personsIDPs: 1.8-3.5 million (conflict between government and illegal armed groups and drug traffickers) (2007)
    Electricity - production(kWh)50.58 billion kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 26%
    hydro: 72.7%
    nuclear: 0%
    other: 1.3% (2001)
    Electricity - consumption(kWh)38.59 billion kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - exports(kWh)876.7 million kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - imports(kWh)39.4 million kWh (2007 est.)
    Oil - production(bbl/day)600,600 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - consumption(bbl/day)291,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - exports(bbl/day)294,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - imports(bbl/day)16,540 bbl/day (2007 est.)
    Oil - proved reserves(bbl)1.355 billion bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
    Natural gas - production(cu m)9 billion cu m (2008 est.)
    Natural gas - consumption(cu m)8.1 billion cu m (2008 est.)
    Natural gas - exports(cu m)900 million cu m (2008)
    Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)105.9 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.6% (2007 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS170,000 (2007 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - deaths9,800 (2007 est.)
    Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: high
    food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
    vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever
    water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)
    Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
    total population: 90.4%
    male: 90.1%
    female: 90.7% (2005 census)

    School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 12 years
    male: 12 years
    female: 13 years (2006)
    Education expenditures(% of GDP)4.7% of GDP (2006)

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