The Latin American Development Forum: a decade documenting the economic development of the region

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Latin American economists differ in their specific analyses of the recent boom in the region, but generally agree on the overall picture:
As Guillermo Perry observes, between 2003 and 2012, Latin America had the highest growth rates in several decades despite the effects of the 2009 global crisis. The region received an unprecedented volume of portfolio and foreign direct investment, improved its terms of trade on rising commodity prices, and benefited from the abundant international liquidity that came on the heels of the recession in the developed economies.
This cycle seems to have come to an end with the change in external conditions, in particular the stabilization of commodity prices and the economic recovery in the United States and Europe. Capital flows have started to wane and growth rates are modest, near the historical average for the region. To paraphrase the analyst Moisés Naím, the tailwinds that drove the Latin American economies are about to become headwinds.
Although this cycle has revealed a Latin America that is better prepared to cope with global economic crises, structural conditions seem unchanged: low productivity growth, limited innovation, poor infrastructure, and despite a rising middle class, persistently weak social indicators in health, education, access to public services, and inequality. In addition, economic performance and institutional quality are very uneven across the region.
What is the reality of the transformations that have occurred during this so‑called “decade of Latin America?” And what can be expected in the near future?
A joint initiative of the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has provided an exceptional way to document the region during this period: the publication of 30 volumes in the Latin American Development Forum Series.
Through a co-publication agreement signed in 2003 by Guillermo Perry, Chief Economist of the Latin America and Caribbean Region at the World Bank; José Antonio Ocampo, Executive Secretary of ECLAC; and Eduardo Lora, Chief Economist and Manager of the Research Department at the IADB, and under my editorial direction, this project came to being, allowing us to publish the best research on Latin America conducted by the three institutions.
How was it possible to reconcile various individual perspectives, coordinate a seemingly complex inter-institutional initiative, and above all, set up a sustainable, high-quality publishing project?
As is often the case, a series of fortunate coincidences made it possible to develop the idea and turn it into a viable project. First, it happened that a trio of renowned Colombian economists – Perry, Ocampo, and Lora – all former directors of Fedesarrollo, a major think tank in the country, each came to lead important research teams in their respective institutions abroad. Second, a Colombian editor, the undersigned, had recently arrived at the Office of the Publisher at the World Bank, bringing along his experience as an editor in the region, and of course his ties with authors – including, so aptly, the trio Perry, Ocampo, and Lora – whose work he had published previously at various publishing houses. There was no shortage of remarks alluding to a “Colombian mafia”…
The series now consists of 30 open-access volumes. It is led by a very active editorial board consisting of representatives from the founding institutions, as well as new ones, such as the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association (LACEA) and the Brookings Institution, which have joined the project. And most importantly, there are no Colombians, which is evidence of a healthy institutional structure!

*Santiago Pombo was former Editor-in-Chief at the World Bank.


Santiago Pombo

Former Editor-in-Chief at the World Bank

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