Monday, October 28, 2013

Latin America’s paradox: Development

Opinion Article by: Estefanía Tirado* (
*Economics and International Business Student at Universidad EAFIT, Colombia.

For the last couple of decades the world has seen Latin American economies, such as Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Panama and Costa Rica, emerge not only trough a major involvement in global trade, but also in the establishment of a national industry, what under a superficial judgment would be considered as an increase on the entire population’s welfare. 
Despite the rapid economic growth, about 80 million people are still living in extreme poverty - half of them in Brazil and Mexico - while a further 40% are at risk of returning to poverty in the event of an economic crisis or because of the effects of climate change in the region (World Bank, 2013). Taking this into account, there is clear evidence that development has not been inclusive and there is a huge portion of the population that does not perceive the benefits of the modern and global economy. 
One of the main causes of this trend of exclusive development has been the extremely low rate of capital accumulation and productivity that has characterized most of the countries in the region. The low rate of accumulation is explained by the misallocation of the resources gained by the growth countries have had until now. There has been a huge portion of these gains directed to consumption, what has made productivity to suffer, employment to decline, and moreover has not strengthened the industrial capacity of the economies. 
In order to recover the rate of capital accumulation and therefore generate a future economic growth that would actually benefit a large portion of society, as more jobs and technology would be available, it is necessary to reduce the rate of consumption, and although making this reduction is the most feasible solution, as it involves no debt, carrying it out has huge social and political challenges. In a context of such a great level of inequality it would be very hard to determine which social groups will have to participate more intensely, and as in Latin American democracies private interests have great influence on political decisions, and applying the policy to the most marginalized portion of society would elevate even more the difference in life quality, there is a conflict of interests goverments have to face and overcome by thinking what would generate the most welfare for the entire society. 
To sum up, it is time for Latin American countries to start thinking about the future and tackle long-term challenges to overcome the paradox and make development a positive process for the entire population. 


World Bank (2013). Cae la desigualdad en América Latina, aunque persisten desafíos para lograr una prosperidad compartida. Available online at:

Prebisch, Raul(1981). Raul Prebisch on Latin American Development. Available online at: .

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