Latin America has its best opportunity in history to reduce poverty and provide a better life for all its inhabitants. But in spite of a strong corporate infrastructure, growing GDP, and targeted social policies, inequality and social exclusion continue to perpetuate poverty. Redistributive policies—from conditional cash transfers to limits on foreign ownership of land—are thus perhaps critical but insufficient strategies for building economic and social health. Urbanization, well advanced in the region, has come with soaring crime rates and dense slums. Meanwhile, with some of the greatest wealth of biodiversity on the planet, the region also faces technical and political challenges to transform that wealth into a sustainable advantage in the face of climate change. While there is little movement toward a regional government along the lines of the European Union, regional cooperation is producing initiatives to answer many of the key challenges for next decade.The Critical Questions
Corporate infrastructure, including state-owned enterprises and unions, could provide a platform for investment in social missions plus the ability to network and scale the efforts of microfinanced enterprises. The big challenge? Creating markets and production structures for high-value goods and services to drive higher wages.
How will Latin America sustain its recent economic growth in the face of extreme income inequality and markets based on low-value commodities?
How will countries in the region overcome their historical patterns of social exclusion to provide equal opportunities to some of their poorest citizens, especially their indigenous populations?
How will the region leverage its growing multilatina corporate infrastructure to scale up corporate social responsibility and social missions?
How will countries with diverse capacities for dealing with environmental challenges cooperate to protect the region’s rich biodiversity as an economic advantage for all?
How will these countries assure consistency in their institutional and economic reforms across politically diverse administrations to build an ongoing platform for improvement in the lives of the poor?
How will Latin America develop regional structures for fighting organized crime across regional borders and overcome the institutionalized corruption that often supports it?
How will the region counter trends of decreased pluralism in the media and increased centralization of media control by both private owners and state censorship?