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LIMA, the enchanted

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata's picture

Banco de la Nación, Lima, PeruLooking into the horizon from the 27th floor of the new tower of the National Bank while attending the World Bank’s Annual Meetings, the sight is partially clouded by a haze that typically lasts 9 months each year. I daydream and imagine I am still riding my bike somewhere down there, among farms and streams while exploring old Inca ruins.

As reality returns, all I can see are roads, buildings, and traffic congestion for miles without end. The Lima of my childhood is gone, having been replaced by a megalopolis of 12 million people, 5 times larger than in the 1960s. Its innocence is nowhere to be found, and today Lima is like any large city, overwhelmingly vast, contaminated, and chaotic. Yet at the same time it has retained the enchantment that made it the capital of the new world in the 1600s, earning it the name “the Pearl of the Pacific” as the seat of the rich Viceroyalty that made Spain the most powerful Empire in the world. Lima today is sophisticated and vibrant. The delegates attending the Bank meetings were treated to an amazing array of tradition and modernity, and enjoyed a delightful display of culture and gastronomy that keeps Lima as a destination in its own right. Lima boasts the best restaurant in the Americas, and 3 among the top 10 in the world. Its art and cultural scenes today are exceptional.

Back at the Banco de la Nación, it is hard to believe that this tower was not there just 18 months ago. It was built for the meetings using an ultra-modern “self-climbing” crane technology, together with the most technologically advanced Convention Center in Latin America. The impeccable organization of the Annual Meetings is a tribute to the capacity of this country to rise to the most difficult challenges, as well as to the hard work of our Bank colleagues that supported these efforts.

The meetings highlighted many of today’s most pressing development challenges, and there was an overall optimism about what lies ahead for the world’s poorest. In terms of Peru, there is, of course, a long way to go to fully eradicate poverty, and there are still unacceptable pockets of misery that have not yet been touched by the rapid economic growth of the last 2 decades. But, for the most part, the country is out of the woods, and the World Bank has played an important role supporting this transformation in sectors such as infrastructure, social development, and governance. The Inspection Panel has accompanied the Bank for over 2 decades and has contributed to making it a more accountable and transparent development institution.

Lima’s hospitality left a deep mark on most delegates, with a Grand Finale provided by world-renowned tenor Juan Diego Flórez at the closing ceremony in the National Theatre. As the meetings came to an end and I turned off the lights on the 27th floor, it is hard not to be proud of having been born in this enchanted city.

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