The World Economic Forum on Latin America returns to Mexico in its 10th edition. This is a unique opportunity to strengthen our bonds and promote long-term economic growth and social development in our countries.
Today, Latin America and the world face a myriad of complex issues, such as lower growth rates, economic uncertainty and climate change. These are all challenges that transcend borders and require a positive renovation agenda geared towards fostering our strengths and assets.
Our region is vibrant, diverse and dynamic. We are rich in human and natural resources, and our countries are home to some of the world’s most creative industries and businesses. In fact, in recent years, Latin America has gained a decisive role as an engine of growth and social progress.
In the past decade, 50 million people overcame poverty and boosted middle-class growth in Latin America. The average income in our region has grown 25%, while extreme poverty has almost halved since the year 2000. To maintain this direction towards equitable and inclusive development, we must continue investing in our human capital and infrastructure, as well as research and development, fostering start-ups and knowledge-based sectors.
Education is a key element in driving development and tackling poverty. In the past decade, Latin American children have increased the number of years they spend in school from five to eight. Yet we are determined to achieve more: we must continue to increase not only the amount of schooling but the quality of the education we offer. This will allow our young people to access better jobs.
It is estimated that around 60% of the Latin American workforce is employed in small and medium-size enterprises. It is therefore important to enhance the success of these businesses through innovation. Our governments need to implement public policies that enable entrepreneurs to create value-added start-ups, thereby increasing employment opportunities and wider economic development. Also, to unlock our productivity and competitiveness, we must diversify and integrate our production chains, promote greater gender equality, facilitate access to healthcare, build modern infrastructure and foster science and technology. The renovation agenda is long, but the Latin-American will to progress is stronger.
It is an honour for my country to host this international forum for the third time, just when Mexico is implementing 11 structural reforms – in areas such as education, labour, energy, public finance, telecommunications, economic competition and transparency – aimed at strengthening our economic growth, providing more rights and strengthening our democracy.
Furthermore, Mexico is the 15th largest economy in the world and the second-largest in Latin America. We enjoy macroeconomic stability and we are one of the most open global economies, with 10 free-trade agreements with 45 countries, plus another one about to start with Panama. Mexico has a young, talented and qualified workforce; we are important players in high-tech manufacturing, as well as a global logistic platform. All of these conditions have transformed Mexico into a reliable and trustworthy country in which global companies can invest and grow.
To sustain and cement economic and social achievements in our region, the World Economic Forum on Latin America has gathered leaders in the public and private sectors to share experiences and success stories. We believe this interaction will help us identify new areas for cooperation towards inclusive growth, as well as better opportunities for our citizens.
During the past 10 years, the World Economic Forum has proven to be an important setting for regional debate. It is an ideal platform for sharing ideas and putting them into action.
It is time to take full advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. I am convinced that during this regional meeting we will be able to transform the spirit of common purpose and collaboration into the progress that our nations demand and deserve.
The World Economic Forum on Latin America 2015 takes place in Riviera Maya, Mexico, from 6-8 May.
Author: Enrique Peña Nieto is the President of Mexico.
Image: Mexico’s stock exchange building is seen in Mexico City April 5, 2010. REUTERS/Henry Romero