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Latin America & Caribbean

Small states in search of big solutions: How the Caribbean Growth Forum is accelerating pro-growth reforms

Steve Utterwulghe's picture



Grenada – Photo by Steve Utterwulghe

Many Caribbean States have long been trapped in a vicious cycle of low growth, high debt and limited fiscal space. The impact of the 2008 financial crisis, as well as recurrent natural disasters, has made the situation even more acute in the region.

To address the structural and policy obstacles to development and growth, a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform on growth in the Caribbean was launched in 2012 by policymakers, the private sector and civil society from 12 states in the region. The Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF) was championed by the states’ prime ministers, and focal points were appointed in the respective Ministries of Finance. The World Bank, acting as the CGF Secretariat, has been behind this initiative from the onset, in collaboration with other regional development banks and various development partners active in the region.
 
Using a conceptual framework of reform identification, tracking and reporting, CFG’s stakeholders have made 495 reform recommendations so far – 40 percent of them actionable in the three pre-identified thematic areas: investment climate, connectivity and logistics, and productivity and skills. The World Bank in 2015 undertook a stocktaking exercise, which identified the CGF’s positive impacts and the areas of improvement.

The benefits of the CGF are unanimously recognized: the generation and dissemination of knowledge to support the reform implementation in the three thematic areas; support for the prioritization of government reforms; the strengthening of stakeholders’ accountability; the creation of social capital by giving a voice to a range of stakeholders; peer-to-peer exchanges and pressure; and the fostering of a culture of dialogue in the policy reform agenda.

Along with Cecile Fruman, Director of the Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group, I was honored to participate and speak at the launch of the Second Phase of the CGF in Belize on March 1 and 2. The objective of the event was twofold: to share and discuss the lessons learned so far, and to have the finance ministers of 12 Caribbean countries endorse a Joint Communiqué.

That communiqué, according to Sophie Sirtaine, the World Bank’s Country Director for the Caribbean, “signals the renewed commitments of these Caribbean nations to accelerate growth enhancing reform implementation, while strengthening public accountability through strengthened public-private dialogue (PPD) mechanisms.”

Economic opportunity for women: It's good business

Anabel Gonzalez's picture

Achieving gender equality and the economic empowerment of women is both a moral and social imperative — and it's also good business.
 
A study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that, if all countries matched the level of progress toward gender equality of the most advanced country in their region, annual global GDP could increase by up to $12 trillion in 2025.
 
Over the past two decades, significant progress has been made toward raising living standards and closing the gap between men and women, particularly in health and education. Life expectancy at birth has risen in tandem with reductions in maternal mortality, while differences in access to primary education between boys and girls are diminishing steadily.
 
These gains — although significant — conceal differences between countries and regions, and are insufficient to ensure equal access to economic opportunities for boys and girls.


 

Developing a financial inclusion strategy: 5 lessons from Paraguay

Marlon Rolston Rawlins's picture




Increasing financial access and financial inclusion have proven to be effective in reducing poverty and accelerating economic growth, and are prominent in the new Sustainable Development Goals.

But expanding financial inclusion nationally requires a well-coordinated effort among different stakeholders.

A recent World Bank and FIRST Initiative project in Paraguay has taught us 5 important lessons about developing a national financial inclusion strategy:  Getting the process of developing a financial inclusion strategy right is key to success when implementing reforms later. 

While we’ve published these tips for financial policymakers as part of FIRST Initiative’s Lessons Learned Series, here’s a quick summary of Paraguay’s experience. 

'If I knew that avocados had value, I would plant more of them'

Cecile Fruman's picture



Emilienne Isenady poses while showing off the crops on her land in Lascahobas, Central Plateau, Haiti.

“If I knew that avocados had value, I would plant more of them,” says Emilienne Isenady, a single mother of six in Lascahobas, in the Central Plateau of Haiti.

Emilienne grows and sells avocados to Dominican buyers and to “Madan Saras” (the local name for women brokers who buy and re-sell products in other cities), who will buy the avocados and transport them using the perilous local “tap taps” – trucks converted into public transportation. She will also sell them in the local market in Lascahobas.

Emilienne is a smallholder farmer, but little does she know that she is already part of an avocado local value chain, nor that there is a better avocado Global Value Chain (GVC) out there facing a global shortage.

Emilienne’s is guiding us to see her avocado trees. As we push aside branches, we do not see neatly planted rows of avocado trees but rather a wild two hectares of scattered mango trees, avocado trees, malanga, sweet peas and pineapples. We are accompanied by Marc André Volcy, Farah Edmond and Jean-Berlin Bernard, three “mobile agents” of the Business Support Service team for the Central Plateau Department.

The team is part of a program that the Haitian Ministry of Commerce and Industry has put in place to support entrepreneurs in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises across the country. The program is supported by the World Bank Group’s Business Development and Investment Project (BDI). There are nine other teams just like them in the nine other departments of the country, all working simultaneously on different value-chain reinforcement initiatives (in such sectors as coffee, cocoa, mango, vetiver, honey and apparel).

Marc, Farah and Jean-Berlin live in the Central Plateau, enabling them to support the avocado producers directly, visiting them often and understanding the local political economy. The team has visited about 80 other smallholder farmers like Emilienne in their department, and has invited them to two public meetings and strategic working groups to present key challenges and opportunities for their avocado cluster. The Central Plateau team has carried out the competitive reinforcement initiative of the avocado cluster in their department with training and coaching financed by a grant from the Competitive Industries and Innovation Program (CIIP), through which they have received in-class training and coaching on how to carry out their field projects. 
 

Trade competitiveness in Uruguay

Gonzalo Varela's picture
For a small economy like Uruguay, integration into the global marketplace is one of the most powerful vehicles for growth and development. Participating actively in international trade allows Uruguayan firms to become more productive, by achieving economies of scale and by learning through exposure to international technologies, know-how and ideas. 

How did Uruguayan firms perform, over the last 15 years, in the global marketplace?


Using the Trade Competitiveness Diagnostic Framework – which we presented today to the Uruguayan public and private sector – a World Bank team examined the performance of Uruguayan firms in global markets in terms of export growth, diversification, quality upgrading and survival;. The team presented a number of recommendations to increase integration and to gain from it.

The main findings of
the report reveal the following:

  • Exports have grown fast thanks to favorable external conditions, but also due to the dynamism of the private sector, as well as to sound trade and investment policies.
  • Tailwinds due to high commodity prices helped export growth. Exports in gross and in value-added terms expanded at double-digit rates, and they expanded even faster among primary and resource-based products. The emblematic example is that of soybean exports, which stood at US$1.5 million in 2001 and which climbed to US$1.6 billion in 2014, making Uruguay an increasingly important player in the world market with a share of 3 percent of total exports.
  • But it wasn’t just tailwinds. The private sector was dynamic enough to seize the opportunity of favorable conditions and penetrate 46 new markets between 2000 and 2013. In just one product, beef, exporters gained access to 30 new destinations, and they secured higher prices in top-quality markets on the back of smart entrepreneurship, quality upgrading and a longstanding government strategy of negotiating market access for the sector. In services, for example, modern, knowledge-intensive sectors such as ICT and other business services also grew at double-digit rates, increasing the knowledge content of the export bundle.

Competitive Cities: Bucaramanga, Colombia – An Andean Achiever

Z. Joe Kulenovic's picture


Modern business facilities, tourist attractions, and an expanding skyline: Bucaramanga, Colombia. 

When the World Bank’s Competitive Cities team set out to analyze what some of the world’s most successful cities have done to spur economic growth and job creation, the first one we visited was Bucaramanga, capital of Colombia’s Santander Department. Nestled in the country’s rugged Eastern Cordillera, landlocked and without railroad links, this metropolitan area of just over 1 million people has consistently had one of Latin America’s best-performing economies. Bucaramanga, with Colombia’s lowest unemployment rate and with per capita income at 170 percent of the national average, is on the threshold of attaining high-income status as defined by the World Bank.  

Bucaramanga and its surrounding region are rife with contrasts. On the one hand, it has a relatively less export-intensive economy and higher rates of informal business establishments and workers than Colombia as a whole. Indeed, informality has often been cited as a key constraint to firms’ ability to access support programs and to scale up. On the other, Santander’s rates of poverty and income inequality, and its gender gap in labor-force participation, are all better than the national average, and it has consistently led the country on a number of measures of economic growth, including aggregate output, job creation and consumption.   
 
But the numbers tell only part of the story. A qualitative transformation of Bucaramanga’s economy is under way. Once dominated by lower-value-added industries like clothing, footwear and poultry production, the city is now home to knowledge-intensive activities such as precision manufacturing, logistics, biomedical, R&D labs and business process outsourcing, as well as an ascendant tourism sector. Meanwhile, Santander’s oil industry, long a major employer in the region, has been a catalyst for developing and commercializing innovative technologies, rather than just drilling for, refining and shipping petroleum.

All these achievements are neither random nor accidental: They are the result of local stakeholders successfully working together to respond to the challenges of globalization and external competitive pressures.

The World Bank’s Caribbean Entrepreneurship Program: One Woman’s Story of Growth

Michael Grant's picture

After managing businesses in television and tourism, Shirley Lindo returned to Jamaica with a desire to create a community-enriching enterprise. As the daughter of a St. Ann farmer, she chose natural products, free of additives, that could be grown on her "Outa Earth" plot in the old Bernard Lodge sugar lands.

Since castor beans grow fairly easily on Jamaica’s plains, she settled on the production of castor oil, a versatile commodity valued as a food additive, manufacturing element, cosmetic ingredient and healing agent. As a testament to the oil’s quality, it has won blue ribbons at the Denbigh Agricultural show, Jamaica’s largest, three years running.
 
Shirley discovered, after a few years of producing the oil using a laborious traditional process and selling to local and American customers, that her product generated large quantities of waste. Rising everywhere were piles of bean shells and leftover bean pulp, plus the leftover trash from another crop, the moringa seeds that were becoming a popular health food on the island.

After doing some research on uses for these agricultural byproducts, Shirley applied for a grant to use them to develop a sustainable soil conditioner and low-smoke briquettes.

From 300 entrants, Shirley was one of 11 winners selected from across the CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) region, and one of four women in that group. Her initial progress was slow, as she grappled with the cost of scaling up castor oil production in order to create the critical mass required for producing the newer products more efficiently.
 

Newest private participation in infrastructure update shows growth and challenges

Clive Harris's picture



In 2013, investment commitments to infrastructure projects with private participation declined by 24 percent from the previous year.  It should be welcome news that the first half of 2014 (H1) data – just released from the World Bank Group’s Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) database, covering energy, water and sanitation and transport – shows a 23 percent increase compared to the first half of 2013, with total investments reaching US$51.2 billion.

closer look shows, however, that this growth is largely due to commitments in Latin America and the Caribbean, and more specifically in Brazil. In fact, without Brazil, total private infrastructure investment falls to $21.9 billion – 32 percent lower than the first half of 2013. During H1, Brazil dominated the investment landscape, commanding $29.2 billion, or 57 percent of the global total.

Four out of six regions reported declining investment levels: East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Fewer projects precipitated the decrease in many cases. Specifically, India has experienced rapidly falling investment, with only $3.6 billion in H1, compared to a peak of $23.8 billion in H1 of 2012. That amount was still enough to keep India in the top five countries for private infrastructure investment. In order of significance, those countries are:  Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, India, and China.

Sector investments were paced by transport and energy, which together accounted for nearly all private infrastructure projects that were collected in this update. The energy sector captured high investment levels primarily due to renewable energy projects, which totaled 59 percent of overall energy investments, and it is poised to continue growth due to its increasing role in global energy generation.

The energy sector also had the biggest number of new projects (70), followed by transport (28), then water and sewerage (12). However, transport claimed the greatest overall investment, at $36 billion, or 71 percent of the global total.

While we need to see what the data for the second half of 2014 show, what we have to date suggests that infrastructure gaps may continue to grow as the private sector contributes less. It also suggests that, in many emerging-market economies, there is much work to be done to bring projects to the market that will attract private investment and represent a good deal for the governments concerned. 
 

PPPAmericas 2015: Taking public-private partnerships to the next level

David Bloomgarden's picture

The Latin America and the Caribbean region is crying out for infrastructure improvements. An investment estimated at 5 percent of the region’s GDP — or US$250 billion per year — is required to develop projects that are fundamental for economic development. This includes not only improving highways, ports and bridges, but also building hospitals and creating better transport, public transit and other mobility solutions for smarter cities. Rising demand for infrastructure also is prompting countries to redouble efforts to attract greater private investment

At the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), as at the World Bank Group, we believe that public-private partnerships (PPPs) can help governments fill this infrastructure gap. However, the projects must be implemented effectively and efficiently to achieve social and economic objectives.

Governments in the Latin America and the Caribbean region not only lack financing to address the infrastructure gap, but also face challenges in selecting the appropriate large infrastructure projects, planning the projects, managing and maintaining infrastructure assets — and gaining public support for private investment in public infrastructure. 

However, PPPs are gaining ground in Latin America and the Caribbean. Beyond the larger economies of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, assistance from the MIF and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has enabled countries such as Paraguay to develop laws that pave the way for PPP projects. Just this week, Paraguay announced its first such project, which involves an investment of US$350 million to improve and build more than 150 kilometers of roads. 

PPPs have been moving beyond classic interventions in public infrastructure, which have typically included roads, railways, power generation, and water- and waste-treatment facilities. The next wave of PPPs increasingly involves and provides social infrastructure: schools, hospitals and health services. In Brazil, IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, helped create the Hospital do Subúrbio, the country’s first PPP in health, which has dramatically improved emergency hospital services for one million people in the capital of the state of Bahia.

A New Model to Chip Away at the Infrastructure Financing Gap: Brazil Leads the Way

Cara Santos Pianesi's picture



Infrastructure bottlenecks have created seemingly perpetual traffic jams in and around São Paulo. Photo credit: Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

There’s a lot of time for innovative thought when you’re stuck in traffic in São Paulo.
 
Perhaps that’s why, in the words for Deborah L. Wetzel, World Bank Country Director for Brazil, “São Paulo has continuously innovated to overcome its infrastructure bottlenecks, often becoming a model to other states in Brazil.”
 
With a loan signed last month between the state and Banco Santander, and insured by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the state is at the vanguard of infrastructure financing.
 
Forty-one million people use the state’s transportation networks. While the network is one of the most developed and modern in Brazil, it is still insufficient for the state’s needs.

The State of São Paulo has sought to address the situation for some time, and the World Bank has played an important role through lending and technical assistance. An important component of this work is the São Paulo State Sustainable Transport Project that aims to rehabilitate roads in several key corridors and to reconstruct two bridges.

Yet, with a total cost estimated at $729 million, this project has faced a major financing hurdle. In September 2013, the World Bank approved a $300-million loan toward the initiative. But with growing demand for loans from Brazil’s poorest states, the bank was unable to commit additional funds. The State of São Paulo itself committed $129 million. That left a shortfall of $300 million.

How was the state going to mobilize these funds at a cost that would be acceptable to taxpayers?

A partnership with MIGA was a natural answer. In addition to political risk insurance, MIGA provides credit-enhancement products that protect commercial lenders against non-payment by a sovereign, sub-sovereign or state-owned enterprise.

In an unprecedented move, the State of São Paulo bid out the project to commercial banks with a requirement that their loans be backed by MIGA’s credit-enhancement instrument.

The result:  MIGA issued guarantees to Banco Santander on a $300-million loan. With MIGA’s credit enhancement, the cost of the commercial loan was lower, and the length of the loan was longer, than São Paulo could have achieved on its own. The additional financing will be used to increase the scope of the project’s activities.

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