Soon will be January 1, 2015. Most of us will make New Year’s resolutions and most of us will fail to keep them. Keeping New Year’s resolutions is hard. But it turns out that we are much more likely to make good on our resolutions if we decide to build upon our strengths rather than focus on fixing what’s wrong. This insight is all the more important if we combine it with the intriguing view that it is the depth of our strengths, not the absence of weaknesses, which makes us successful. People are successful not because they are perfect but because they have deep strengths. What if this was also the case for countries?
With this in mind I turn my attention to some of the strengths of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, three countries that have recently put together their “Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle.” The Plan is in part a response to the well-known security challenges facing those countries and the challenges posed by the surge in unaccompanied migrant children but it is also an opportunity to focus on the strengths of the Northern Triangle of Central America and how to develop them even further. And when one goes beyond the headlines one discovers a variety of success stories.
Latin America has a long, fractured, and ultimately failed history of public media. So-called “public media” typically functioned as government-controlled institutions for spurious goals - propaganda and clientelism - rather than quality content in the service of multiple public interests.
This is the story of a country located next to the largest and most connected economic block in the world, with fairly low labor costs and a relatively well educated workforce. You would expect that country to do well. However, the state of Serbia’s economy is problematic. Today, Serbia’s output is below what it was in the 1980s (in the time of Yugoslavia) and only half of its working age population has a job in the formal sector.
At the heart of Serbia’s problems are two interconnected imbalances, which explain why the country appears to be stuck on its path to prosperity. First, the economy is running on domestic consumption, which was fueled by financial inflows since 2000, while exports remain well below potential. Second, employment is driven by the state, not the private sector, with almost half (45%) of all formal jobs in the government or State Owned Enterprises.
"I became tired of loosing my friends to violent acts involving firearms, and seeing how the young the potential of my generation is lost in prisons and cemeteries." These are the words of Angel Bolivar Araya Castillo, the Coordinator of Youth Against Violence (YAV) Movement in Costa Rica. I had the privilege of meeting Angel this spring when he and six youth representatives from the YAV movement came to the World Bank to talk about the importance of youth participation in violence prevention.
For almost a decade, the large emerging market economies, including several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), have been regarded by analysts and investors as new engines of growth. The enthusiasm was further sparked when, after a short pause in 2009, emerging economies actually led the economic recovery in the world. A new story line seemed to dominate, that emerging market economies had finally arrived.
A regional initiative that assists governments in identifying funding gaps and prioritizing reforms is helping El Salvador, Honduras and Panama better meet their national goals for water and sanitation.
Many of our aspirations revolve around improving our personal finances—keeping better track of spending, saving towards a goal or perhaps getting out of debt. How can we work towards these goals and follow through on these changes?
When Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities in 1859, he was most definitely not thinking about Latin America, let alone Panama. He was writing about Paris and London, and more importantly, depicting important themes of poverty and inequality experienced during the French Revolution.
So what does this have to do with Panama? Well, despite more than 150 years having passed since Dickens wrote his famous tale, the themes of poverty and inequality persist and are quite evident in Panama’s health sector. In the case of Panama, the “Two Cities” are actually a metaphor for the two very stark realities that Panama faces - urban Panama versus rural, indigenous Panama -- and the very different health outcomes experienced in each.
You can find it here.