Latin America,Caribbean economic forecast hailed

A top-ranking World Bank official has hailed regional progress toward a solid economic recovery, saying that the latest forecast points to an estimated regional growth of more than 5 percent in 2010.

“Despite the worst global economic collapse in more than 70 years – a collapse that caused an economic contraction in Latin America and the Caribbean of nearly 2 percent – the region is already getting back to solid growth, an impressive demonstration of resilience,” Pamela Cox, the bank’s vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean told participants on Sept. 14 at the Americas Conference 2010 in Coral Gables, Florida.

“This is an excellent sign that (the region) is quickly returning to the strong pattern of growth it enjoyed before the crisis, the strongest in decades,” she added.

In contrast, Cox said regional progress will not be completed without reconstruction and development in Haiti.

The senior World Bank official said that priority in the short-term in Haiti include housing, debris removal and getting more schools to reopen this academic year.

In addition, she said attracting private sector investments, particularly in the garment industry; ensuring sustained progress in fiscal and financial systems; and job creation are other priorities.

Cox said Latin American and Caribbean countries are among the first to lend a hand to Haiti’s recovery.

“Latin America has also shown a real commitment to the cause of Haiti,” she said, noting that some countries have played a “key role” in maintaining peace and security in the earthquake-ravaged, French-speaking Caribbean country.

“After a tragedy like this, everyone wants to see things move at a very quick pace. ” Cox said.

“However, the magnitude of the disaster means that it will take more than months to rebuild Haiti,” she added. “We must also ensure funds provided show results.”

At the same time, Cox warned regional leaders that progress in Latin America and the Caribbean will not be complete unless countries invest more significantly in research and development.

She said investment in innovation will be salient in helping regional economies progress on a level that is on par with Asian economies and other fast-growing emerging market economies.

The senior World Bank official said the more the region finds new and better ways to do things, the better chance it will have in making up the terrain lost in previous decades.

World Bank experts note that all Latin American and Caribbean countries, except for Brazil, invest much less than the recommended 1 percent of their gross domestic product in research and development.

Cox pointed to low efficiency and productivity in the use of labor and capital as “culprits that could thwart continued progress and a long-term recovery.”

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