Probably, Mafalda - an Argentinean comic book character - was right when she said that "the urgent things do not leave time for the important things". However, it is necessary that, in this context, we must stop and think what should be done and what is important.
Argentina is going through a demographic transition process, which implies opportunities and challenges in economics and social fields. That is the actual case of Argentina, as well as the rest of Latin America.
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.
While driving around rural areas of Puno in Peru, Caaguazú in Paraguay or Granada in Nicaragua, do not be surprised to see women lifting rocks from the roads and using shovels and picks alongside men. In fact, in the past 15 years, the number of women that have joined organizations in charge of routine road maintenance in Latin America has increased significantly and with this their life conditions have improved dramatically.
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Co-Authors: Aleksandra Iwulska, Javier Eduardo Báez and Alan Fuchs
In April this year the Dominican Republic borrowed 1.25 billion US dollars on international markets in 30-year bonds. The DR is the only country in the B investment rating group that successfully issued 30-year bonds in the last 6 years. The country has a total of 2.75 billion US dollars for three issuances in the past 15 months.
At the same time, debt levels have been growing in the country: non-financial sector public (NFPS) debt doubled from 18.3 percent of GDP in 2007 to 36.6 in the first quarter of 2014.When considering the DR Central Bank debt stock, levels would be already close to 47 percent of GDP. It is worth noticing that Jiménez and Ovalle (2011) estimated in 56.7% the debt to GDP the maximum debt to GDP threshold that investors would consider sustainable for the DR in 2013. Meanwhile, interest payments reached a peak of 2.4 percent of GDP in 2012-13 and external debt stood at 25 percent of GDP in 2013, levels not seen since the economic crisis of 2003. But the economic realities in the DR now are much different than they were in 2003. GDP grew by 4.1 percent last year and 5.5 percent in the first quarter of 2014. The Central Bank forecasts the annual economic growth at 4.5 percent this year. Meanwhile, central government fiscal deficit dwindled from 6.6 percent of GDP in 2012 to 2.9 percent in 2013.
On a Friday evening last November, twelve mayors from nearby districts gathered at the municipal office building in Tarapoto, Peru. Even though the rainy season was just ramping-up in this lush tropical area of the country, local roads were already being washed away. These mayors were eagerly planning for the local Provincial Road Institute to use their tractors to protect their roads to counter the negative effects of the rain.
One of them cried out, “How will my people bring grapes and coffee to local markets without good roads? Our products are going to rot and my people are going to suffer.”
A five hours’ drive south of Lima lays the coastal provinces of Chincha. If one heads inland into the deserted mountains that are typical of costal Peru, one would be surprised to find agriculture blanketing the valley floor. For centuries local communities in these rugged terrains have been using water from small meandering streams to grow maize, and eke out a living by selling surpluses at nearby markets. However, in recent years the growth of industrial agriculture has squeezed these communities, making it hard for them to survive in these ancestral lands, forcing many of them to move to nearby cities such as Chincha Alta.
"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.