Latin America: the real deal.

Author:Segal, Susan
Position:TRADING VIEWS
 
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EVERYONE is talking about Latin America's "new decade." Discussions in economic forums, investors, multilateral banks and social development groups are focused on Latin America's new star position--and with good reason. So far, we've seen only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Latin America's new era of growth, prosperity, poverty reduction and opportunity. Here are just some of the many reasons why the buzz about Latin America isn't just buzz but the real deal.

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While the United States--and the rest of the world--saw their economies shrink as a result of the economic crisis, Latin America experienced steady growth. Because of its sound economic policies, fiscal responsibility and macroeconomic reforms over the past several years, most of the region proved that it could withstand the financial shocks plaguing the rest of the world. The region emerged from the crisis stronger than ever, with global recognition of its success and a newfound confidence that is evident in many forms.

The success, however, was not overnight. It consisted of at least two decades of economic reform with a focus on creating stable macroeconomic environments and low inflation as well as rebuilding banking systems. The results are clear: In 2010, Peru saw 8.6 percent growth; Brazil, 7.7 percent; Uruguay, 9 percent; and Mexico and Chile, 5.3 percent. Uruguay, Colombia, Brazil and Peru are looking closely at OECD benchmarks like income inequality, inflation, labor reform and education. Strong economic growth, coupled with ambitious goals to build on recent successes, is just one example that Latin America is poised to see its best decade yet.

Economic growth is not the only reason why this is Latin America's decade. Social development in the region, specifically poverty-reduction programs, is some of the best in the world. Projects targeting poverty have resulted in a 16 percent drop in poverty since 1990, according to United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Peru, Mexico, Chile and Colombia continue to usher in more citizens into the middle class and into the formal sector because of these programs, in turn fueling demand for goods and services that drives even more economic growth.

In Brazil, popular income-transfer policies and the Bolsa Familia program brought 36 million people into the middle class and lifted 28 million out of extreme poverty.

On the healthcare front, by providing subsidies for...

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