Sunday, January 19, 2014

Five reasons why Latin America is important for debates on development

Paul Collier has famously argued that development debates should focus on the "bottom billion"--the poorest countries in the world--and should ignore regions like Latin America. The region is too rich, too modern and, for others, too unimportant from a geopolitical perspective.

 This kind of approach--which is becoming increasingly dominant in the UK--does not make much sense. There are many reasons why the region offers important lessons and illuminate many debates in development studies. Here you have five (a catchy number!):

 1. For at least a century, Latin America has been one of the most (if not the most) unequal region in the world, but many Latin American countries (led by Brazil) are now reducing inequality faster than ever.

2. Many Latin American countries have relatively well-functioning states capable of implementing industrial and social policies... but without the autonomy and capacity to do so effectively. 

3. Their shift in economic policies across history has probably been more radical than in any other region: from an export-led liberal model to import substitution to neoliberalism (see Rosemary Thorp's full book in the web for a great illustration) and to the current rich debates on post-neoliberalism and the left today.

4. Latin America has benefited from some of the best economic thinkers in the developing world (including Raul Prebisch) and some of the most dynamic international organizations.

 5. Latin America is probably the region with most ecological wealth and diversity in the planet and with more creative debates about the conflicts between development, the environment and human rights. What (many) other reasons am I missing?

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