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August 2013

Iberoamerica: Contributing to the long-term prosperity of a continent

Jose Carlos Villena Perez's picture

During my recent business development trip to Spain to represent MIGA at a forum on Latin American port infrastructure organized by Tecniberia, I had an opportunity to see with my own eyes and appreciate the great achievements made by many Iberoamerican nations.

One remarkable point in the still-young economic history of the 21st century is the “decade of sustainable prosperity” in Latin America. The region benefits from one of the longest growth periods in its modern history, with only Chinese and other emerging Asian powers jeopardizing its first position at the imaginary podium of the 21st-century economic empires.

It seems that Iberoamerica has finally managed to break its peculiar Malthusian trap (short periods of booming growth followed by deep recession) in which it fell again and again throughout the 20th century, and has seriously taken a sustained path of progress.

However, there are no grounds for complacency and passive contemplation of what has been achieved in this prodigious decade. Iberoamerican leaders and governments have to continue consolidating their economies, eradicate any poor past practices, and acquire new human resources and technical infrastructure. This will help them position their countries among the most advanced nations of the world and diminish the immediate risks of a slowdown in global growth.

The region is still facing evident challenges: the strengthening of the middle class, reduction of income inequality, exploitation of vast natural resources, and the engagement of minority groups or aboriginal majority in political and social life. Enrique Iglesias, head of the Iberoamerican General Secretariat (SEGIB) and former president of the Inter-American Development Bank, recently pointed out that "Iberoamerica is not going to have it easy going forward.  We are no longer sailing with a favorable wind and we will have to use our own engines—sometimes the wind will even be against us...We have to start thinking in these new terms."