World Economic Forum on Latin America Opening Pathways for Shared Progress
The ninth World Economic Forum on Latin America took place in Panama City and brought together more than 650 leaders from industry, government, academia and civil society, including seven heads of state and government. Young people from Latin America and the Caribbean were also well-represented by Global Shapers from across the region. Over the three days of the meeting, under the theme Opening Pathways for Shared Progress, participants explored a range of issues affecting Latin America as it defines its role given a challenging global context.
The meeting took place with the full support of the Government of Panama, and coincided with the centenary of the Panama Canal. This Central American country – which has a buoyant economy, and has invested in infrastructure and introduced business-friendly policies – embodies the potential dynamism of the region. In spite of a global financial crisis, Latin America has experienced sustained economic growth, demonstrating its resilience. However, if it is to continue along its positive trajectory, structural challenges must be tackled.
Throughout the meeting, it became clear that Latin American economies are moving at different paces and most of them must diversify their economies. In large part due to high prices, 60% of the region’s export income comes from commodities, compared to 40% at the start of the century. This is a volatile base for an economy, exposing it to fluctuations in price and external demand. In some cases, it has also led to the substitution of locally manufactured goods with imports, affecting the region’s manufacturing capacity and competitiveness. Economic diversification could offer new trade and business opportunities, including for small and medium enterprises. It could also lead to innovative industrial policies, increased productivity, accelerated regional integration and a transition towards a knowledge-based economy.