Latin America: A sovereign way of meeting the MDGs

'The goals are an obligation that, as such, tends to be in conflict with reality. Still, they are extremely important because their show the path we must follow to get closer to that ideal. With all their differences and particularities, the vast majority of Latin American countries are moving in the right direction to achieve the millennium goals, though perhaps not at a pace fast enough to meet the deadlines'. 

by Fernando Zack

The Millennium Development Goals are a horizon that should guide the implementation of public policies in all countries worldwide. They focus on the need to promote sustainable development for all nations by meeting a set of indicators regarding poverty and eradication of hunger, as well as universal education, job creation and decent work, gender equality, child mortality and environment protection, among others. The goals are an obligation that, as such, tends to be in conflict with reality. Still, they are extremely important because their show the path we must follow to get closer to that ideal. With all their differences and particularities, the vast majority of Latin American countries are moving in the right direction to achieve the millennium goals, though perhaps not at a pace fast enough to meet the deadlines. Here some examples:

The first of the goals of the Millennium Declaration proposes to reduce by half, between 1990 and 2015, the percentage of people living on less than US$ 1 per day and people who suffer from hunger. Until late 2008, Latin America as a whole had achieved up to 85 percent of the extreme poverty reduction goal. However, progress made country by country is very dissimilar. On one hand, three countries have already met the target (Brazil, Chile and Peru), while at least four (three of which are among those with the lowest per capita income) are likely not to achieve the goal. In addition, countries such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay maintain very high levels of poverty (near or above 20 percent) regardless whether they comply with the extreme poverty goal. The second MDG aims to ensure universal primary education by 2015. Latin America and the Caribbean have made significant progress in expanding coverage and access to education. While in 1990 net access to the primary was about 88 percent of children, the percentage is 95 percent today. With levels of net enrolment exceeding 99 percent, countries such as Argentina, Aruba, Belize, Cuba, Mexico and Peru, have virtually already met the target. Given the evolution of these indicators, the world must recognize that Latin American governments were able to mitigate the impact of the crisis triggered by the collapse of the global economy in 2008.

Why did that happen? One key reason is that, since the beginning of this century, governments in the region consolidated the independence and sovereignty of their countries' economic policies. This allowed the implementation of a variety of measures (reduction of debt levels and rescheduling of payments, accumulation of international reserves, twin trade and fiscal surpluses and increased social spending) that enabled them to manage the unfavorable context. The implementation of unorthodox countercyclical policies underpinned consumption and production and helped to sustain levels of employment.

Only a sovereign Latin America, whose countries are able to conduct their own economic policies, can place the region on the right path towards meeting the millennium goals. That and no other is one of the many lessons learned from the latest international economic crisis. 

 

Fernando Zack is the Executive Director of SID Buenos Aires Chapter (SIDbaires).

Photo: andresumida/Flickr