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Latin American Leaders Call for Social Inclusion Through Economic Growth

Lucy Jay-Kennedy, Senior Media Manager, Public Affairs, +1 917 209 9483, +507 65398327,   lucy.jaykennedy@weforum.org

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  • The World Economic Forum on Latin America is taking place in Panama City, Panama 1-3 April
  • Latin American leaders call for growth and social inclusion to go hand in hand
  • Education, infrastructure investment, regional integration and investor-friendly policies keys to development
  • Learn more about the meeting at http://wef.ch/la14

Panama City, Panama 2 April 2014 – Presidents and prime ministers opened the ninth World Economic Forum on Latin America in Panama City, with calls to make economic growth and social inclusion mutually reinforcing tendencies.

Ricardo Martinelli, President of Panama, told an international audience of over 600 leaders from more than 50 countries that “without our economic growth, we could not have had social inclusion”. To achieve its growth rates of over 8% on average for the past six years, Panama has reduced red tape, made tax collection more equitable, invested in infrastructure, legalized foreign workers and promoted itself as a safe haven for foreign investment (45 cents of every dollar in the government budget goes to infrastructure). The poverty rate has fallen from 38% to 23%.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, told participants that the focal point for development is education: “Education is the key to a better life.” Persad-Bissessar said that for the past 10 years, every child in her country has had access to primary and secondary education. The government is now working to universalize pre-kindergarten education. Trinidad and Tobago, which is now considered a developed country, is diversifying away from oil and gas production into manufacturing and services, including tourism.

Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, one of the region’s oldest and strongest democracies, said “countries, like human beings, require balanced development” that cannot be based on low wages and environmental exploitation. She said the four pillars to development are strong institutions, human development with a focus on education, sustainability, and integration with the world, for which the Pacific Alliance is particularly promising.

Otto Perez Molina, President of Guatemala, said regional integration has the potential to create large consumer markets that will attract foreign investment. He also cited energy integration as a key path, saying that a natural gas pipeline that runs from Guatemala to Mexico could be extended throughout the region. “The best social policy is a good economic policy,” Perez Molina said, with more investment leading to lower poverty and lower poverty leading to improved security.

The programme of the World Economic Forum on Latin America focuses on the region’s efforts to maintain economic growth, boost economic diversification, increase productivity, fuel competitiveness, and enhance trade and invest in human capital. Participants are helping to determine how to better address challenges in education, health, infrastructure and technology, and will contribute to shaping the region’s economic, social and political agenda.

The co-chairs of the meeting are: Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Executive Director, International Trade Centre (ITC), Stanley Motta, President, Copa Holdings, Panama; Arif M. Naqvi, Founder and Group Chief Executive, The Abraaj Group, United Arab Emirates; Frits D. van Paasschen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, USA; Jorge Quijano, Chief Executive Officer, Panama Canal Authority, Panama; and Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive Officer, WPP, United Kingdom.

Public figures participating in the meeting include Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica; Juan Orlando Hernández , President of Honduras; José Miguel Insulza, Secretary-General, Organization of American States (OAS), Washington DC; Ricardo Martinelli, President of Panama; Otto Perez Molina, President of Guatemala; Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington DC; and Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico.

Notes to Editors


The World Economic Forum is an international institution committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation in the spirit of global citizenship. It engages with business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation in 1971 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Forum is independent, impartial and not tied to any interests. It cooperates closely with all leading international organizations (www.weforum.org).



The World Economic Forum is an international institution committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation in the spirit of global citizenship. It engages with business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation in 1971 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Forum is independent, impartial and not tied to any interests. It cooperates closely with all leading international organizations (www.weforum.org).