World Economy

LatAm States to Fight Poverty, Inequality

LatAm States to Fight Poverty, InequalityLatAm States to Fight Poverty, Inequality

Predictions of a sharp slowdown in Latin America’s economic growth this year make it even more necessary for the region’s leaders to make commitments to boost prosperity with equality during the Seventh Summit of the Americas in the Panamanian capital.

In several of the summit’s forums, the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Barcena, said the regional economy was expected to grow a mere one percent in 2015, after GDP growth amounted to just 1.1 percent in 2014, IPS reported.

The two-day inter-American summit that opened Friday Apr. 10 has once again brought together high-level representatives of the governments of the 35 countries of the Western Hemisphere, with the novel inclusion of Cuban President Raul Castro making it a historic meeting.

The heads of state and government, and parallel civil society, academic, youth and business forums, met in Panama City to debate the central theme “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas”.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff put an emphasis on a key issue of the economic slowdown: the serious social impact it could have in the world’s most unequal region.

 Worst Economic Performance

In a panel in the Second CEO Summit of the Americas, also attended by the US, Mexican and Panamanian presidents, Rousseff said the region should work hard to keep the large numbers of people pulled up into the middle class by social policies in recent years from falling back into poverty.

According to ECLAC, South America will show the worst economic performance – close to zero growth – compared to 3.2 percent growth in Central America and Mexico and 1.9 percent in the Caribbean.

The president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, also warned that the governments must take measures to prevent the economic stagnation from undoing the great achievement of the last decade, when poverty in the region dropped from around 50 percent 15 years ago to less than 30 percent today.

In the panel, US President Barack Obama called on governments in the region to cooperate to create mechanisms towards lifelong education, in order for the hemisphere to continue to grow.

“We have to replace the dynamic of extractivism with a culture of sustainability,” Barcena said in another panel. In her view, the drop in the rate of growth should drive new social pacts in the region, in order to keep up the efforts to curb inequality.

“Without equitable distribution of wealth, there will be neither growth nor development,” Erick Graell, secretary of Panama’s Central Nacional de Trabajadores trade union confederation, told IPS. He participated in the alternative People’s Summit.

 Alternative Meeting

Behind barriers at the University of Panama, 3,000 members of social and labor movements from the Americas met Thursday Apr. 9 to Saturday Apr. 11 in the alternative meeting to the official summit organized by the Organization of American States (OAS).

At the People’s Summit, women and men in colorful traditional indigenous dress walked around the university assembly hall, where social protest chants could be heard and the walls were festooned with posters and phrases of legendary Argentine-Cuban guerrilla leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928-1967) and other historic leaders of Latin America’s left.

 “It has become a tradition that every time the presidents get together in their elite summits, ignoring the country’s development, social movements hold this alternative meeting,” said Graell, with the People’s Summit organizing committee.

The alternative forum, whose slogan this year was “A homeland for all, with peace, solidarity, and social justice,” discussed issues such as human, economic, social and cultural rights, democracy and sovereignty, trade union freedom, migration, indigenous communities, education, social security and pensions.