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An opportunity to project a dynamic post-crisis region

Sergio Jellinek's picture

In the lead-up to the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, the Latin America and Caribbean Region VPU of the World Bank is co-hosting and attending the Americas Conference.

I’ve no doubt that the upcoming Americas Conference has the potential to become a platform to project a more dynamic, competitive and democratic Latin America as it exits its worst financial and economic crisis in decades.

Costa Rica’s President Oscar Arias will attend the Miami forum as a special guest, whose voice is one of moderation and respect for the region’s diversity, but also of uncompromising commitment to the core values of democracy and peace.

His vision as chief mediator in the Honduras crisis and author of the San Jose Accord should provide an important contribution to discussions on the plight of this Central American nation.

Political stability in the region is, clearly, one of the key topics being addressed at the Miami conference, which lends particular relevance to the presence of former President and special UN envoy to Haiti, Bill Clinton.

Another important topic to be addressed at this forum –where the World Bank debuts as a partner– is the fashion in which Latin America and the Caribbean will emerge from the financial crisis.

Before Lehman Brothers collapsed a little over a year ago –pushing the markets into a tailspin– most economists assured us that Latin America was safe from the crisis because it had managed to decouple from the economic cycles of rich countries.

“There’s no crisis here”, some countries claimed. “Nothing here, either”, added others. Nevertheless, the crisis demonstrated that decoupling was yet another bubble among the many that burst back then.

What proved to be true is that the global crisis hit us with varying intensity: while Brazil is already turning the corner and begins to show signs of growth, the region’s other giant, Mexico, is still mired in a recession.

There are many questions begging for answers. What’s going to happen to trade after it dropped more than 10% in a single year? How will this affect the most open nations in the region such as Chile? Is a regional recovery possible if trade doesn’t show a trend of solid growth?

Or will there be an era of restrictive trade under the mark of renewed protectionism spreading like the H1N1 virus? Except that with trade protectionism hand-washing doesn’t stop the spread of disease.

I think these are all good questions for the World Bank economists to address.

Maybe the Miami conference will provide an opportunity to find pragmatic and diverse alternatives to the widespread malaise of social inequity in the region. Maybe it becomes a forum where solutions are found, as opposed to just a chance for the usual suspects to blame others for the problems affecting the region.

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