A window of opportunity has opened in Latin America for designing and encouraging medium- and long-term policies for promoting innovation and knowledge. It is of priority importance that these policies be directed so as to increase productivity, enabling greater diversification in their concentrated economic structure, as well as making significant improvements in the social and economic conditions of Latin American citizens.
EA window of opportunity has opened in Latin America for designing and encouraging medium- and long-term policies for promoting innovation and knowledge. It is of priority importance that these policies be directed so as to increase productivity, enabling greater diversification in their concentrated economic structure, as well as making significant improvements in the social and economic conditions of Latin American citizens. In this respect, a medium-term strategy should prioritise several closely-related areas: (1) making progress in the quality and reach of education, with the aim of increasing the stock of human capital and strengthening the skills available to the region; (2) seeking to involve the private sector, in order to increase levels of funding; and (3) promoting access to certain information and communication technologies (specifically, broadband internet access) in a way that is analogous to other public assets, with the objective of promoting their universality.
These were some of the conclusions reached at the 5th Ibero-American Development Agenda Seminar, which this year, 2009, was dedicated to debating and reflecting on innovation and knowledge in the region, as a precursor to the 19th Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government that will be held in two weeks in Estoril (Portugal). This same issue will also be the central point of the summit between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean, which will take place in May of next year, under the Spanish Presidency of the EU Council.
As every year, the first part of the Seminar was given over to analysing Latin America's current situation and social and economic prospects. Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, and Sonsoles Castillo, Chief Economist for Cross-Country Analysis, Emerging Markets, BBVA, identified and explained the main social and economic data, placing particular emphasis on the impact that the global financial and economic crisis is having in the region. Following a significant period of expansion in Latin America (a period that lasted from 2002 to 2007), the global economic crisis has impacted on the region, mainly through three different channels. The first, through a drastic reduction in exports and a fall in prices. The second, through the diminishing volume of remittances received by the region, and which had been gaining in weight and importance to sustain the domestic demand of these countries’ economies. And finally, through a reduction in investments received. As a result of all this, an important contraction in activity is forecast that will result in a slight increase in poverty and in the destruction of employment, in terms of both quantity and quality.
Unlike previous crises, and in spite of the important shortages still being experienced in the region (such as high levels of inequality, inability to impose tax regimes, lack of investments and low levels of productivity), the impact of this global economic and financial crisis on Latin American economist has been delimited. This time, inflation has not shot up, the fiscal position of the countries in the region has not been critically altered (despite the stimulus packages that have been deployed), levels of debt have hardly risen, and what is perhaps most important, the credibility achieved by these countries during this period has hardly been affected, and in some cases has become even stronger. Everything suggests that Latin America will experience an adjustment of short duration, an event that was unusual in previous periods of contraction. Unlike in those periods, the region seems to have made use of this prior period of prosperity to do its "homework", and has succeeded in strengthening its "basics" at both a macroeconomic and a financial level, which has resulted in low levels of vulnerability. Despite these advances, these countries should take care not to drop their guard in the social sphere, and to take advantage of this opportunity to move forward in this area and consolidate the improvements achieved with respect to macroeconomic stability.
On the second day of the Seminar, which was wholly given over to debating the subjects of innovation, knowledge and new technologies, Javier Santiso, Director of the OECD Development Centre, outlined the Latin American situation with respect to this field, while Mario Cimoli, Officer-in-Charge of ECLAC's Division of Production, Productivity and Management, analysed its impact on productivity and competitiveness. In addition to highlighting the region's backwardness in terms of penetration, as well as its lack of funding and human capital (which has led to a significant digital gap), particular emphasis was placed on the need to make progress with methodological improvements that will enable the countries to discard the classic measuring instruments that have been used. In the same way, it was stressed that the different states need an active policy on promoting I+D+i, given the associated distortions.
Finally, the seminar ended with a round table discussion at which participants spoke of the needs that are present in the region, and different initiatives for promoting I+D+i in the Spanish sphere were presented. The participants in the discussion included: Lourdes Casanova, Lecturer in the Department of Strategy at INSEAD; José María Álvarez-Pallete, President of Telefónica Latinoamérica; Pedro Luis Uriarte, President of the Basque Agency for Innovation (Innobasque); Carme Botifoll i Alegre, Director General of ACC1Ó of the Generalitat of Catalonia; and Elías Atienza, Director General of the Technological Corporation of Andalusia. During the debate, the idea was reinforced that promoting I+D+i should involve both the public and the private sector (which is still very absent in Latin America). Likewise, the proposal of the previous day made by Alicia Bárcena, concerning the importance of broadband Internet access as a global public asset was taken up again by the speakers and the audience. This demand in particular will be transmitted to the Ibero-American Summit.
Presentation/ presentation addresses: