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End of Latin America's "Golden Decade"?

End of Latin America's "Golden Decade"?

Posted by Liliana Castaño on May 28, 2014

Latin America, the region many overlook for its weak economies and unstable politics, has come a long way in the past decade, with Chile and Brazil currently leading the way toward full development. However, despite the notable successes of the last decade, the Latin-American economy as a whole is coming to a standstill.

Top scholars agreed with that central theme and predicament last week at the University of Miami’s Ninth Annual Latin America Symposium at the Conrad Hotel in downtown Miami. Although specialists in different aspects of Latin America, selected by the Center for Hemispheric Policy, all saw plenty to praise in recent history.

One of Latin America’s best steps forward was the widening of the middle class. As most of the scholars mentioned, Latin America now boasts a stronger middle class that is not afraid to make its needs heard. Currently, there are even more people in the middle class than in poverty, said headline speaker Augusto de la Torre, chief economist of Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank.

“We used to say ‘when the US catches a cold, we catch pneumonia,’ but not anymore,” he said. “Latin America has built a better immune system.”

That improved immune system he dubbed “the golden decade,” when 75 million Latin Americans came out of poverty, has seen a reduction of the region’s poor to less than one third of the population.

During this last decade, Latin America has also shifted sides in the world economy, going from lender to creditor, said de la Torre, pointing out that the region has managed to become a great user of FDI (foreign direct investment).

Another of the region’s successes is the Pacific Alliance, formed by Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile in 2012. According to Carl Meacham, director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C., it has yielded real results in a short period of time.

“The alliance has liberalized 92 percent of inbound trade and permitted the free movement of people between states,” he said. “The Pacific Alliance is more than 50 percent of the region’s trade.”

But despite the young alliance’s achievements, and the region’s overall economic improvement, there is still a lot of work to be done.

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