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Americas conference raises region’s expectations about its future

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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.

Government and business leaders attending the Americas Conference went home Wednesday with a renewed sense of accomplishment after devoting two intense days to tackling an ambitious yet urgent agenda for the region’s future.

The grand rooms of the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables still reverberate from the animated discussions that took place here amid the lush settings of Miami’s oldest city. These discussions will likely steer the debate on two of the most important issues facing the region: the global financial crisis and renewed threats to democracy in the region as embodied in the Honduran crisis.

Our chief regional economist made quite a splash after announcing that the worst of the crisis is over for Latin America.

Augusto de la Torre said that some economies seem to be on the mend, with Brazil showing clear signs of an early recovery. “Altogether we are predicting a mild contraction for 2009 and an average growth of 3% for 2010,” said de la Torre.

This is good news for a region that has taken a beating from a crisis that it did not cause and can now look forward to resuming its vigorous growth path, but with some caveats, according to de la Torre.

“Sustained growth will not only hinge on domestic policies but also on how the big economies exit their stimulus policies,” de la Torre said. “If they leave too early we won’t feel all the benefits, and if it’s too late we risk inflation,” he emphasized.

In the meantime, another crisis also seems to be heading for the exit: Honduran leaders are under pressure to lift restrictions on civil liberties imposed by the de facto regime after harsh words by Costa Rica’s president Oscar Arias and Obama’s Special Assistant, Dan Restrepo.

The crisis in Honduras has to be peacefully resolved in compliance with the San Jose accord,” said Restrepo, echoing President Arias words from a day earlier.

Haiti’s future development prospects got a boost from former President Bill Clinton after vowing a renewed commitment from regional leaders and the US. “ I think Haiti has a good shot at freeing itself from its past of poverty,” said Clinton.

A lot is at stake. Now we have to wait and see whether the Miami meeting lives up to the region’s expectations.


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