Struggling economies of Latin America discussed in speech

jackie.stark

The economic crisis that has left many Americans without homes, pensions and savings accounts is also affecting many other countries around the world.

Ines Bustillo, a United Nations economic authority, spoke about how the downturn in the world’s economy is affecting Latin America and the Caribbean on Tuesday, Oct. 21 in the Mead Auditorium. She placed an emphasis on innovation.

“The issue of innovation is key for the region sustaining and resuming growth,” Bustillo said.

Bustillo is the director of the Washington office of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which she joined in 1989. She began in ECLAC as an economic affairs officer, working on things such as macroeconomics and international trade, subjects she taught when she was an economics professor at Universidad de Anuhuac in Mexico. Bustillo was also a consultant to the World Bank, the Center for Latin American and Monetary Studies and Operadora de Bolsa in Mexico City.

Several points of her speech, entitled “The Economic and Social Panorama of Latin America and the Caribbean,” had to do with the implications of such a sudden slow-down in the economies of those two areas of the world.

Since 2003, the region has seen a sustained economic growth, Bustillo said, adding that from 2007-08, Latin America witnessed it’s best economic performance in the last 40 years.

Bustillo said that to achieve that type of economic boom again, Latin America and the Caribbean would have to wean itself from a product-based economy to one of innovation.

“We cannot compete with Asia in the basis of low wages,” she said. “The only way that we need to do is try to innovate more . in order to foster economic growth.”

And while economic growth is important for any country, if only to increase prosperity, it is important for the social growth of countries as well.

“Economic growth is crucial and necessary to create and deal with huge social challenges that Latin America and the Caribbean face,” she said.

Some of those social challenges include a severe income distribution and rampant poverty, Bustillo said, adding that these types of problems often hinder economic growth. And while these two problems are common to many of the countries in the area, she said they have also been making strides to fix them.

“Common elements for economic growth are stability, good social policy, a government that works, a market that works,” Bustillo said. “There are different ways of achieving that. Countries can achieve the same directions by adopting different policies.”

She also described the differences in the American economy and that of Latin America and the Caribbean, saying that though the economy of the latter region wasn’t hit as hard as the former, it’s still not out of the woods.

“The region will not be immune,” Bustillo said. “We hope we can resume growth next year, and that we can continue making an address for the challenges that lie ahead.”