Strategic Outlook: Latin America (Tuesday January 21, 2020)
Latin America’s governments have faced a number of domestic pressures in recent years, including humanitarian, political and geo-economic, which have led to an economic slowdown in the region.
A bumper set of panellists debated how leaders in Latin American countries can establish cohesion across the region and build a sustainable, prosperous and secure future.
The panellists were Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, Executive Secretary for the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Paulo Guedes, Minister of Economy, Brazil, Angel Gurría, Secretary General, OECD, Lenin Moreno Garcés, President of Equador, Guillermo Nielson, Special Envoy of the Government of Argentina and, Graciela Márquez Colín, Minister of Economy, Mexico.
In 2019, eight Latin American countries changed leadership against a background of economic challenges and issues with inequality. The region achieved just 0.1% growth with 1.6% predicted in 2020 by the IMF.
The panel is united in agreeing that the region faces significant challenges – some common across borders and others country-specific. Neilson explained that Argentina is focused on two key areas this year: debt restructuring and launching a programme to promote growth.
He summed up the situation in simple terms: “In order to foot the bill [of our debt] we need to grow.”
Guedes answered the challenge from Ibarra that Brazil has not been growing enough by saying: “For many decades Brazil was the fastest growing economy – above China. Somehow we lost our way.”
Part of the reason, Guedes explained, is that Brazil has been spending above its means with inflation running wild. After 40 years of mismanagement, he believes that his government has started to tackle some of the overspending – areas such as social security and debt interest – and they are seeing a slow and steady recovery.
In Mexico, the country has the world’s lowest minimum wage. Márquez Colín said that her country is committed to improvement with tight controls on inflation and paying back public debt, suggesting that the “macro stability looks fine”.
She argued that the minimum wage has increased in each of the last two years and there is a commitment to offer better paid jobs in the future. They are also looking to tackle inequality, particularly in the south of the country, through large infrastructure projects.
One Trillion Trees – a global initiative is launched (Wednesday, January 22, 2020)
The World Economic Forum launches a global initiative to grow, restore and conserve 1 trillion trees around the world – in a bid to restore biodiversity and help fight climate change.
President Ivan Duque of Colombia, one of the panelists in the press conference, said: “The big challenge of our time is climate change and we will not be successful on climate change if we don’t defeat deforestation.” Colombia aims to plant 180 million trees by August 2022, he said.
Securing a Sustainable Future for the Amazon (Wednesday, January 22, 2020)
The number of fires in the Amazon rainforest grew in 2019 were up 30.5% from the previous year, and raised global awareness of the importance of the region for the world’s biodiversity and the climate. What is the best path for the people and the Amazon and their environment?
Ivan Duque, President of Colombia, will discuss the future with Brazilian scientist Carlos Afonso Nobre, former US Vice-President Al Gore and naturalist Jane Goodall. The moderator is BBC broadcaster Mishal Husain.
Read: How green investment will help Latin America and the world fight climate change
ICYMI: earlier today: One trillion trees – World Economic Forum launches plan to help nature and the climate
Carlos Afonso Nobre said that in the southern Amazon, deforestation was happening at such a rate that it could hit a ‘tipping point’ where the forest could not sustain itself.
“If this tipping point is exceeded, 50-60 percent of the Amazon forest will turn into dry savanna.”
Ivan Duque has a big stake in the future of the Amazon : 35% of his country, Colombia, is in it. His government aims to plant 180 million trees by 2022.
“It’s not widely understood that the soils in most of the Amazon are very thin – the richness is in the canopy,” said Al Gore.
“So when poor people clear the land and think they will have crops year after year it’s a false hope and not a sustainable answer to poverty.”
Special Address by Juan Guaidó on Venezuela (Thursday, January 23, 2020)
Juan Guaidó gives a special addresss to Davos 2020, at a decisive time in Venezuela’s history.
Guaidó is the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela and recognized by more than 50 countries as Interim President of Venezuela.
What are the next steps for the country?
Reuters sums up his position: “Last January, Guaidó invoked the constitution as head of congress and declared Maduro an usurper. But a year on Maduro remains in power, despite a U.S. campaign to cut off his government’s sources of financing by imposing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, and Guaidó’s attempts to encourage the military to rebel.”
Guaidó defied a travel ban to leave Venezuela on Sunday and has since met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and addressed the European Parliament.
He says he plans to return to Venezuela, but it will be risky.
“This a real opportunity to talk to you, the world’s leaders, to bring the voice of Venezuelan people to say we stand steadfast,” Guaidó said.
“More people have left the country than have have left Syria, but we are not a country at war, there are no bombs, but we do feel the weeping of our people.”” Guaidó said.
“On behalf of Venezuela, on behalf of those children … who perhaps have no hope today, we have to make sure we act.”
Guaidó said his demand was simple: a free and fair election. “What we want is a free Venezuela, a democratic Venezuela which respects human rights, where you can invest, where we can also make the most of our oil reserves, so that we can really unleash the potential that we have, if we can rebuild our region, consolidate a democratic system which would serve its people so that we can stop this disaster.”
For more information on the numerous sessions and contributors at the Annual Meeting in Davos, go to the WEF’s official homepage: https://www.weforum.org