Op-Ed: World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Opportunity in Latin America

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - June 25, 2013

By Jim Yong Kim
Op-Ed Contributor

LATIN AMERICA has had a good decade. Over the last 10 years, economic growth averaged 4.2 percent, and 70 million people escaped poverty. Macroeconomic stability, open trade policies and pro-business investment climates have supported and will continue to support strong growth in the years to come.

Crucially, economic gains are being broadly shared. A recent World Bank report found that the middle class in Latin America grew by 50 million people between 2003 and 2009, an increase of 50 percent. For a region long riven by wealth inequality, this is a remarkable achievement.

As I prepare to travel to Latin America, I see a region that has come a long way from the “lost decade” of the 1980s, and is emerging as a driver of global growth. But we have much more to do, to ensure that Latin America’s people share in their region’s growing prosperity.

Although inequality is declining, Latin America remains the world’s most unequal region. From 2008-10, eight of the world’s 10 highest countries in income inequality were in Latin America, as measured by the Gini coefficient. Intergenerational mobility also remains limited: A young person’s parents’ economic and social background, as well as whether they were born in a rural or urban area, still largely determines that person’s economic future.

And, in countries that have benefited from the commodity boom of the last decade, the benefits of natural resource wealth have failed to reach all members of society, fueling social tensions among those who feel left behind.

If unaddressed, inequity will continue to stoke volatility across the region. But striving for shared growth isn’t just the right thing to do from a social and political perspective; it’s an economic imperative. World Bank research suggests that when poverty levels increase by 10 percent, growth decreases by 1 percent and investment falls by up to 8 percent of GDP.

Delivering on the promise of growth will require Latin American policymakers, along with their partners in the development community, including the World Bank, to ensure that economic gains benefit all citizens. Some countries are showing how this can be done.

In Brazil, policy reforms have helped equalize educational attainment. In 1993, the child of a father with no formal education completed four years of schooling on average. Today, Brazilian students complete between nine and 11 years of schooling, regardless of their parents’ education.

Conditional cash transfer programs have also played a role in leveling Latin America’s economic playing field. In the 1990s, Mexico and Brazil pioneered these programs, which provide cash payments to the poor in return for productive activities, such as enrolling children in school and mothers going for medical check-ups. Similar programs have sprung-up across the region.

We know that overcoming the region’s history of economic inequality is possible. But what will it take to achieve shared prosperity for all?

First, governments must ensure that the market doesn’t leave people behind. Latin America’s strong gains in poverty reduction in the past decade resulted from increased wages and better-targeted social policies. This trend must continue.

Second, policymakers should do more to provide disadvantaged children with quality education. Doing so would raise their productive capacity and enhance social inclusion by empowering poor children to participate more fully in their economies.

Finally, leaders must improve their ability to deliver services to the poor. Without improved capacity for quality delivery, even the best policies will mean little to their intended beneficiaries. The Bank will provide support in this area, by helping Latin American governments take a more scientific, evidence-based approach to the delivery of development services.

Latin America has made tremendous progress in recent years. But more needs to be done. When I visit the region, I look forward to learning what it will take to ensure that opportunity and prosperity extend to all of Latin America’s people.

Jim Yong Kim is the President of the World Bank Group.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

Popular Posts jamaica new hotel montego bay

Looking for a Budget-Friendly Montego Bay Vacation? There's a New Hotel for That  

It’s home to one of the most famous streets in the Caribbean, named after one of Jamaica’s global music icons: Jimmy Cliff Boulevard.  While the heavily-trafficked street has seen its share of ups and downs in recent decades, that’s been […]

At These 13 Resorts, You Can Take the Perfect Adventure-Filled Vacation in Belize

belize blancaneaux

Belize, a Caribbean travel destination full of natural wonders that also happens to have some of the coolest adventure resorts on the planet, from top-flight jungle hotels to luxurious river lodges and just about everything in between, whether you’re seeking […]

Why Ambergris Caye, Belize is the Caribbean Capital of Overwater Bars

belize san pedro ambergris caye

You can hear the ballad from Palapa halfway across Ambergris Caye; for a moment you swear the voice belongs to Dolly Parton herself.  Palapa is the town’s most prominent stage, hosting a revolving door of talented artists for intimate concerts […]

Related Posts carnival cruise line

Carnival is Making Its New Grand Bahama Cruise Port Bigger 

In what is expected to be a massive boost for Grand Bahama, Carnival Cruise Line is in the process of building a brand-new cruise destination on the island called Celebrtaion Key, which is slated to open in 2025. Now, Carnival […]

Island Routes Is Expanding to St Vincent and the Grenadines 

la soufriere volcano

Caribbean attraction company Island Routes is adding another destination in the Caribbean: St Vincent and the Grenadines.  The company’s expansion comes ahead of sister brand Sandals Resorts International’s imminent debut of the new Sandals St Vincent resort, slated for this […]

The Bahamas Is the Caribbean’s Hottest Spring Destination 

pink sand beach

The Bahamas is the most popular destination in the Caribbean for spring travel, according to a new report from travel insurance company Squaremouth.  The Bahamas was the only Caribbean destination to make the top 10 among the most popular destinations […]


Sign up for Caribbean Journal's free newsletter for a daily dose of beaches, hotels, rum and the best Caribbean travel information on the net.

No. Thank You