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Poorest Region in Latin America
Latin America has made great strides in its efforts to reduce extreme poverty. Since 2000, poverty levels have been cut in half and in 2011 the middle class surpassed the amount of the impoverished for the first time. However, Central America and Mexico seem to be falling behind.

It’s estimated that Central America and Mexico have the most people living in extreme poverty, an average of 16 percent, and have the smallest number of people in middle class per capita.

There are many reasons why these countries remain the poorest and struggle to catch up with the rest of the Latin American countries. Issues include:

  • Drug Trafficking: Drug trafficking has plagued the region with violence and corruption making it extremely difficult to allow for further growth and stability. The fact that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world only serves to accentuate this issue.
  • Government Rivalries: From shores to waterways, El Salvador and Honduras argue over property rights constantly. Guatemala and Belize cannot come to an agreement on border control. Also, many countries are angry that Honduras and Guatemala receive more foreign aid than the others.
  • Security and Trust: National security seems to be an issue for every country, including the United States. As drug consumption and trafficking are at an all time high, the Central American governments feel that the United States should be taking on more responsibility in fighting the drug cartels. Also, countries are not cooperating well due to lack of trust and corruption. An idea arose to create a database to control and track drug cartels, but the lack of trust among officials rendered it inoperable because they could not find people to run the program.

Central America needs to resolve its issues if the region wants to create and maintain economic growth and stability. It is important that the region strives to strengthen the economy, give youths hope for education, and provide opportunities to prevent them from engaging in drug trading. Also, each country must facilitate trade agreements and have better communication with one another. These changes could inevitably translate into more jobs and investments for each state.

Taylor Schaefer

Sources: Huffington Post, Tico Times

Pro_Mujer_International_info
Pro Mujer International is a development and microfinance organization helping women in Latin America. They provide financial, health, and human development services to help women break the cycle of poverty. Pro Mujer equips women with the tools and resources necessary to build their own livelihoods through microfinance, business training, and health care support.

Pro Mujer is motivated to affect change in Latin American society. They understand the conditions of income disparity and gender inequality. They believe that when women are given the tools to lift themselves out of poverty, they will also lift their families too. According to Pro Mujer, women are more likely to reinvest in their families to provide education, healthcare and to improve living conditions.

The organization is committed to a client-focused approach that actively seeks results. They strive for integrity, transparency, solidarity and they work to maintain commitment to human development. Pro Mujer was founded by Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco in 1990 in Bolivia. Their vision for an organization to help lift women from poverty has today become one of Latin America’s premiere development and microfinance organizations for women. Pro Mujer has since been able to allocate over $1 billion in small loans and services including empowerment training, preventive health education and primary healthcare services.

Examples of the financial services provided by Pro Mujer include small business loans, education and housing loans, savings accounts, and life insurance. Their business and empowerment training programs teach women to be more economically independent and informed decision makers as well as teaching basic financial literacy, and empowerment training on domestic violence, communication and leadership skills. Additionally, Pro Mujer is able to provide healthcare assistance including pre and post natal monitoring, family planning, and sexual and reproductive health services to name a few.

Pro Mujer’s current CEO is Rosario Perez. Perez began her career in private banking where she was charged with leading multinational businesses and teams and executing organizational transformations. She is now responsible for Pro Mujer’s portfolio of more than US $100 million and 1,700 employees. Her employees serve more than 2,547,000 clients in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru.

– Caitlin Zusy

Sources: Pro Mujer, Mastercard Worldwide

emerging markets
As the economy continues to expand, the stories of economic growth and development are shifting.  The new stars of emerging markets are beginning to rise and take the spotlight in the story of development.  Over the past decade, the most well-known stories of rising nations within emerging markets have been that of BRIC nations-Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Reporting double digit growth numbers over the past several years has catapulted them to the top of the emerging markets.  However, their growth is starting to level off and has fallen back into single digits.  They are more stable and sustainable in their growth and have paved the way for new stars to take the spotlight.

Head of emerging markets at Morgan Stanley Investments Ruchir Sharma believes the BRIC nations are beginning a period of slow-down and their slower growth will leave room for other nations to take center stage.  The stories of the BRIC nations are remarkable. China’s double digit growth has turned the nation into a sustainable nation with a growing middle class.  This is a huge step in overall country development. The creation of a middle class provides additional opportunities for advancement and brings in outside investors to the nation who are interested in the increasing consumer spending capacity.

Who are the new stars?  Sharma says the nations to watch for are the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia, as well as parts of Latin America such as Peru, Chile, and Colombia. Political leaders in these countries are stable and have a strong understanding of economic reform. These nations have great potential to be the new emerging markets and double-digit growth producing countries.

The Philippines is one of the most cost competitive destinations of technology and business service centers. While India used to dominate the call-center world, the Philippines is fast becoming a strong competitor.  Indonesia has a strong commodity business to build economic strength and Thailand’s manufacturing sector continues to expand.

Beyond the potential new stars of emerging markets are several economies that have the ability to follow behind in the coming years. Nations like  Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka are beginning steps towards economic reform. According to Sharma, the winners of one decade are rarely winners in the next, but the emerging markets continue to be a strong factor in the global economy and a strong place for foreign investment. It will be a fascinating story to watch as the decade unfolds.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Wall Street Journal
Photo: Avid Investor Group

farmerpicture
To continue to advance U.S. efforts to fight hunger, USAID has signed an agreement with global company Syngenta International AG. The agreement will seek to increase food security and reduce hunger in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The agreement will go to support farmers.  According to USAID, each night, around 870 million people around the world go to bed hungry and Syngenta is joining the fight to reduce those numbers.  Their partnership in the fight will help to increase the adoption of innovative technologies and create mechanisms for crop insurance.

The USAID and Syngenta agreement will allow both groups to reach the impoverished and malnourished across three different continents in joint efforts to end global poverty.  USAID and Syngenta will work together in research and development and capacity building. They will work together and with scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and other donors. This commitment advances the goals set by Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

As previously announced, Syngenta will invest over $500 million in Africa alone to help farmers adopt new technology to increase their yields. With 27,000 employees in 90 countries, Syngenta is truly a global company that is making a global impact. Part of their mission is to bring plant potential to life through science while protecting the environment and improving health and quality of life. Syngenta hopes to ignited change in farm productivity worldwide through the partnership.

Feed the Future is part of this global effort and supports countries as they develop their own agriculture sectors to increase economic growth and trade. In 2012, more than 7 million food producers were helped through Feed the Future. The USAID and Syngenta partnership will continue to grow agricultural development and promote the goals of Feed the Future.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: allAfrica
Photo: USAID

Solar_Latin_America
SolarReserve, a U.S.-based solar company, has announced its expansion into Latin America for international development purposes. The company opened up an additional office in Santiago, Chile, as part of an effort to “provide cost-effective, clean energy solutions worldwide.”

SolarReserve plans to focus primarily on solar energy opportunities in the growing mining sector throughout the region, and will also be developing large-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) projects, as well as photovoltaic projects.

Company CEO, Kevin Smith, stated that the move to Latin America was a logical next step considering the benefits of clean energy development in the region, including the abundant solar insulation, inclusionary energy policies, and the expanding mining sector. He also said that although hydro power and wind power are already established sources of clean energy in Latin America, solar is only more recently gaining a foothold.

Smith also stated that SolarReserve hopes the installation of solar energy will help provide a more consistent and reliable energy source to the region, along with a cleaner source of power from an environmental standpoint.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Power Engineering

colon-panama-economic-growth.opt
The Panama Canal is framed by Panama’s two largest cities. At one end is Panama City, a vibrant, bustling metropolitan center that is currently experiencing some of Latin America’s greatest growth. At the Canal’s other end, just forty miles away, lies the city of Colon, where potable water, electricity, structurally sound buildings, and meaningful work are all in short supply for the city’s 220,000 residents.

Panama has had an average economic growth of nine percent every year for the last five years. This is due in large part to foreign investment and development in Panama City, where Central America’s first subway is currently under construction. The tallest building in Latin America, a 70-story Trump hotel and condominium, is not out of place among newly constructed skyscrapers, malls, and restaurants.

But Colon has not enjoyed the same booming industrial and commercial development. The city has the largest duty-free trade zone in the Western hemisphere, which has long been a point of contention between residents and developers. Recent development within the zone has benefited businesses there, but not the city at large. The duty-free zone caused social unrest last year when Panama’s president passed a law allowing sale of land in and near the zone. Residents feared this would displace them from their homes and hurt their incomes. Several were killed in the protests.

The economic inequality between Colon and Panama City stems in part from racial segregation and discrimination. Racism is a long-standing problem in many Latin American countries, and Panama is no exception. Those with light skin are often viewed more favorably than those with dark skin in terms of wealth, attractiveness, and ability.

Colon is predominantly black, while Panama City has a larger percentage of European descendants. Many believe that racial discrimination has played a role in Colon’s economic depression.

The stark disparity between Panama City and Colon is an example of the unequal economic growth occurring all over the world. In many places, wealth remains concentrated where it is already abundant, while the poor remain poor, and grow poorer. Correcting this imbalance will require a multifaceted, in-depth, strategic approach that the world’s poor are unable to implement themselves. Therefore, those who have the means to do so are responsible for working to make humane living conditions and economic security realities for every person on the planet.

Kat Henrichs

Source: NY Times
Photo: AP