Learning the Art of the Possible in Latin America

Latin American policymakers and aid organizations currently spend money without the guidance of a coherent, explicit set of options. This October, the Consulta de San Jose will bring together a team of 20 regional specialists economic experts drawn from Latin America and elsewhere to weigh up options and carefully consider the costs and benefits of the identified solutions.

Shortly after he was elected Uruguay’s first left-leaning president, Tabaré Vázquez declared that, “We have to reconstruct the future from the limitations of our own times.”

Reconstruction and transformation are occurring across Latin America. A “pink tide” has brought politicians like Vázquez to center stage, posing a challenge for North America and Europe. Reform and high commodity prices are buoying the region. Latin America’s economies are doing better now than they have in a long time.

But reconstruction doesn’t happen overnight. The “limitations” that Vázquez spoke of are vast. Latin America is still far from being able to compete with the might of China or India. And it continues to have the widest gap between rich and poor. The richest 10% of its people earn nearly half the total income, while the poorest 10% earn just 1.6%. In contrast, the top tenth in industrialized countries earn 29.1% of total income, while those in the bottom tenth earn 2.5%.

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