Despite its status of middle-income country in terms of GDP, Panama still remains a society of sharp contrasts. The robust economic growth of today is a historic opportunity for progress in reducing poverty and inequality.
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Regional growth down to 1.2 percent this year, rebounding to 2.2 percent in 2015Average for the entire region understates growth in many smaller countriesEmployment and quality education for all, key ... Show More +to maintaining social gainsWASHINGTON, October 7, 2014 – During the recent commodity boom, Latin America and the Caribbean proved that growth could be pro-poor and help fuel tremendous social progress. Now as growth slows regionally and beyond, it is critical to consider what will shore up economic activity while ensuring the poor won't stay behind. In its latest semiannual report, Inequality in a Lower Growth Latin America, the World Bank´s Office of the Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean forecasts an average 1.2 percent rate of growth for 2014 with a rebound to 2.2 percent in 2015. This deceleration comes with a difference.“In terms of equity, the simple fact that Latin America today is not the Latin America of the 1980s or 1990s, is already a good news story,” said Augusto de la Torre, World Bank Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean. “For the first time in recent history, the region is no longer following a boom-bust cycle of the type that used to set the economy back for many years, hurting the poor the most.”The report, issued ahead of the IMF-World Bank Group annual meetings, finds a great deal of heterogeneity within the region. Panama leads with an impressive 6.6 percent growth for the year and Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Surinam are expected to grow more than 4 percent, well above the regional average. Meanwhile big economies such as Venezuela and Argentina are going into negative territory, at -2.9 and -1.5 percent respectively, and the regional giant, Brazil, is expected to growth by only 0.5 percent.With this level of growth, countries may find it challenging to keep the social gains from the last decade. During those golden years the region was able to cut extreme poverty by half to 12 percent in 2012, and double the ranks of the middle class to 34 percent of the population in 2012. That year, Gini index of income inequality was 7 points lower than in 2003, largely due to a narrowing of wage gaps in the region.Now in a more stable, albeit slower growth environment, governments in the region will understandably want to focus on maintaining the levels of employment that contributed to those equity gains and thus meet the expectations raised during the boom. Some countries in the region will have at their disposal the types of tools -- such as countercyclical monetary policy with flexible exchange rates as well as ample space to borrow -- that will help them maintain jobs without compromising the longer term priority of boosting productivity in order to grow more.“Other countries, however, with high levels of indebtedness or facing inflation pressures despite the slowdown, may find it more difficult to respond,” said de la Torre. “The temptation for these countries would be to take the path of least resistance, keeping aggregate consumption and government spending high and borrowing to finance the associated fiscal and external deficits. This path might be encouraged by highly liquid international markets seeking higher yields. The short-run gains, however, would carry a high price: lower long-run growth due to a more vulnerable balance of payments or an uncompetitive real exchange rate.”To maintain the path of pro-poor growth of the past decade, productivity oriented reforms need to be complemented by policies that increase the quality and coverage of education in line with growing demand for skilled labor. The report thus concludes that advances in the quality of primary, secondary, and tertiary education that benefit all Latin Americans will be crucial to ensure that the dividends of productivity gains are fairly distributed so that the prosperity is truly shared. Contacts:In Washington: Sergio Jellinek (202)458-2841, email@example.comMarcela Sánchez-Bender (202) 473-5863, firstname.lastname@example.org For more information, please visit: www.worldbank.org/lac Visit us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/worldbankBe updated via Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/BancoMundialLAC For our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/worldbank Show Less -
New report dissects central role of teachers in raising student learningLIMA, July 24, 2014—Every week, public school students in Latin America and the Caribbean are deprived of the equivalent of one ... Show More +full day of class, according to a new World Bank report. The source: the low teacher effectiveness.Based on unprecedented research involving the observation of more than 15,000 classrooms in 3,000 primary and secondary schools in seven Latin American countries, the report, Great Teachers: How to Raise Student Learning in Latin America and the Caribbean, describes how teacher absenteeism, poor preparation, low skill level and pay, as well as weak school leadership, all serve to cheat students. The report is a powerful contribution to the growing body of research on how to improve the quality of instruction and learning results.The report comes as experts mull over just how Latin America will maintain levels of growth that made recent poverty and inequality reduction possible. Innovation, competitiveness, government reform, and education are typically cited as the requisite economic engines for further prosperity. Yet on the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test in 2012, the 8 participating LAC countries were at the bottom of the scale for middle-income countries -- although a few countries, such as Chile, Brazil and Peru have made important gains from previous years.The report was launched on Thursday at the Regional Education Solutions Forum, held at the Catholic University in Lima and with the participation of Peru's First Lady, Nadine Heredia.In her speech, the First Lady noted that "in the case of Peru, we need to find a way to make our growth sustainable, and to do that investing in human capital will be essential as it is the way to develop more innovation capacity, technology, research and productivity.''Jorge Familiar, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean said that “it is hard to think of a more important element to broaden opportunities for all Latin Americans than a quality education," and he emphasized that "it is hard to think of a more significant player to raise educational quality than the region's teachers."For a region in need of enhancing student learning, this is a sign that much more needs to be done to recruit, groom and motivate great teachers. According to global research, students with the best teachers advance 1.5 grade levels or more per year, while those with the worst teachers master 0.5 year of curriculum or less. That research also shows clearly that the economic and social benefits of national education spending depends on what students’ learn – and not how many years they stay in school. If Mexico raised its average student performance on PISA to Germany’s level, its annual long term GDP growth could rise by 2 percentage points.The report sheds important light on who Latin America’s teachers are today:Their pay incentives are low. Their monthly salaries in 2010 were between 10 and 50 percent lower than salaries for other “equivalent” professionals and have been throughout the 2000s.They have more formal education than other professional and technical workers but start out academically weaker than the overall pool of higher education students. 75% are women.Students majoring in education are of lower socio-economic status and are more likely to be first-generation university students.The teaching force in the region is aging. The average teacher in some countries is more than 40 years old.While many countries in the region are producing an excess supply of new teachers, it is still difficult to find adequate teachers for secondary level mathematics, science, and high quality bi-lingual teachers (Spanish/indigenous language) in rural areas.“Virtually all countries in the region appear trapped in a low-level equilibrium of low standards for entry into teaching, relatively low and undifferentiated salaries, weak instruction in the classroom, and poor educational outcomes,” according to Barbara Bruns, the author of the report, “Moving to a high-level equilibrium will be difficult but it is an effort that the region can’t afford to postpone.”At a time of diminished public resources, the report makes a significant contribution in helping identify where priorities should be assigned. Among its striking findings is the fact that teachers in countries with the largest investment on “One Laptop per Child” initiatives actually spent the lowest share of total class time using information and communications technologies.Challenges ahead for the region are mixed. Over the next decade, the declining size of school-aged population in about half of the countries in the region, notably the Southern Cone, could make it substantially easier to raise teacher quality; in the other half of the region, especially Central America, the need for more teachers will make this harder to achieve.The report’s good news, however, is that most LAC countries are sharpening their focus on teacher quality. It distills the global research evidence and latest LAC experience with innovative programs and major reforms in three priority areas:Policies to recruit better teachers.Programs to groom or develop the skills of teachers already in service.Stronger incentives to motivate top performance, which will make the profession more attractive and selective over time.In analyzing the design and implementation of major teacher policy reforms in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico, the report chronicles the decisive role of teachers’ unions, the value of finding consensus solutions, and how to build the broad support of civil society that has underpinned successful and sustainable reforms.For more information, please visit: www.worldbank.org/lacVisit us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/worldbankBe updated via Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/WorldBankFor our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/lacregion2010 Show Less -
Humberto Lopez served as WB Chief Economist for Central America between 2008 and 2011WASHINGTON, July 2, 2014 – The World Bank announced the appointment of J. Humberto Lopez as its Director for Centra... Show More +l America, effective yesterday. Lopez is a renowned expert in Central American socio-economic issues, having held other positions for the subregion within the institution."One of Humberto Lopez’ priorities will be to lead the Central American unit charged with providing comprehensive solutions aimed at reducing extreme poverty and providing shared prosperity in Central American countries, generating greater opportunities for all citizens, as well as contributing to the subregion’s integration,” said Jorge Familiar, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean.Lopez, a Spanish national, joined the World Bank in 1996 and has since worked in several positions in the Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean regions. He has also served in the Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Management Unit and in the Office of the President of the World Bank Group.Until his new appointment, he was serving as Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction for Latin America and the Caribbean.Lopez was the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Central America between 2008 and 2011 and is the co-author and/or editor of papers on Central American integration and trade agreements, economic growth, remittances, investment climate, poverty reduction, inequality and fiscal policy.The new World Bank Director for Central America holds a PhD in Economics from the European University Institute in Italy and a Master’s degree in Economics from Warwick University in the United Kingdom.In his new position, Lopez, who will be based out of Washington D.C.. He will be in charge of a unit that includes six Central American countries. Lopez replaces Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, who is now working as an advisor to the World Bank’s Managing Director, Sri Mulyani Indrawati.For more information on the World Bank’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean, please visit: www.worldbank.org/lacPlease visit the World Bank website for Central America: http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/lacVisit us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/worldbankBe updated via Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/WorldBankLACFor our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/worldbank Show Less -
WASHINGTON, March 13, 2014 – Through innovative pension systems reforms over the last decade, Latin America expanded pension access by 11 million previously excluded people over 65, according to a new... Show More + World Bank publication launched today at the Inter-American Dialogue.During the decades of 1980 and 1990 most pension systems in Latin America were revamped to improve their financial sustainability, but in recent years efforts have been aimed at achieving greater inclusion from various programs such as expansion of non-contributory pension or flexible entry requirements to traditional contributory pension schemes.Beyond Contributory Pensions: Fourteen Experiences in Latin America (Más allá de las Pensiones Contributivas: Catorce experiencias en América Latina) — notes that recent reforms of pension systems adopted in 14 Latin American countries in the last decade have helped reduce the proportion of the population over 65 with no access to benefits by almost 33%, a change that represent the most dramatic coverage improvement in decades. The report also focuses on how LAC countries are addressing the urgent need to prevent its rapidly ageing population from falling into poverty. In 1950, life expectancy in the region was 52 years; it reached 74 in 2010 and is expected to exceed 85 by 2100.Towards shared prosperity"There is no single recipe to protect seniors that are excluded from traditional pension systems. Each country has different coverage levels, fiscal constraints and face challenges and characteristics that require flexible policies," says Rafael Rofman, World Bank Lead Social Protection Specialist for Latin America and co-author of the report. "However, what we can say is that despite these differences, all countries in the region are on a path of inclusion," he adds.Currently there are various strategies to achieve this goal between the countries of the region, which could be classified into three groups:Universal Access: Countries like Bolivia and Trinidad and Tobago, which granted pension benefits to all seniors, regardless of their previous benefits, which will not be taken away.Inclusion of Excluded: The new inclusion programs in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Panama and Uruguay aim at closing the coverage gap, granting pension benefits to those who had none in the past.Focus on the Vulnerable: Countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru, are providing social pensions as part of their poverty reduction and social assistance strategies, targeting benefits to the most vulnerable, under a model that replicates the approach to poverty among families with young children.The challenges ahead"In Latin America there is a paradigm shift towards [using pensions as a tool for] inclusion and poverty reduction, the challenge now is to consolidate this shift and make it sustainable over the coming decades," says Ignacio Apella, World Bank Social Protection Specialist and co-author of the study.The reforms studied show a significant improvement in the coverage of the elderly in Latin America. The challenges ahead seem to be around consolidating these changes in legal and institutional terms, ensure fiscal sustainability as well as political and social consensus around them, and give continuity to the advances in terms of inclusion achieved in recent years.Beyond the Contributory Pension describes the main issues faced by countries in the region to increase the coverage of pension systems beyond the population of formal workers.Click here to read the full report. Show Less -
The region has the third highest teen fertility rate in the world and exhibits a slower decline in teenage pregnancies than other regionsGUATEMALA CITY, December 12, 2013 – Poverty, poor education, in... Show More +equality and an inadequate ability to make decisions and control their own life plans puts girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) at greater risk of teenage pregnancy and early motherhood. This, in turn, is associated with lower educational, economic and job opportunities, according to a new World Bank report.The “Teenage Pregnancy and Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean: on Early Motherhood, Poverty and Economic Achievement” report points out that teenage pregnancy and early motherhood remain significant challenges for the region, despite advances in the educational and health indicators for women during the last decade and the growing female participation in the labor market.LAC is the region with the third highest teenage fertility rate (72 births per 1,000 women between 15 and 19 years of age), below Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (108 and 73, respectively). In fact, most of the countries in the region appear in the top-50 list of countries with the greatest teenage fertility rates in the world; eight of them (Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador and Panama) rank in the top 40.“Poverty and lack of opportunity are directly associated to teenage pregnancy and early motherhood, which can become impediments to women wanting to take full advantage of development opportunities,” said Luis-Felipe López-Calva, World Bank Lead Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean and part of the team authoring the report. “This represents a challenge for the region, even though teenage pregnancies have dropped around the world in the last ten years, in Latin America and the Caribbean that drop has been slower than elsewhere.”While the annual reduction in the teenage pregnancy rate between 1997 and 2010 was 2.7 percent in South Asia and 1.6 percent globally, the annual drop in LAC was just 1.25 percent. In LAC, the four countries with the highest teenage pregnancy rates (Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Honduras) reported the same rates between 2000 and 2010. The five regional countries with the greatest success in terms of reducing teenage pregnancy rates during this period were Colombia (-25 percent), Haiti (-23 percent), Costa Rica, El Salvador and Peru (-21 percent).The report analyzes the risk factors associated with teenage pregnancy and highlights that teenage pregnancy rates are directly linked to poverty conditions and factors associated with inequality. Results suggest that those teens with more education, living in urban areas and belonging to higher income families have a lower probability of getting pregnant. Pregnant teens are more vulnerable and poorer than childless teens, this in part is explained by the fact that they belong to different at-risk groups.An important risk factor is the lack of agency, understood as the freedom and ability a woman has to effectively choose her goals and make free decisions regarding her life plans. An teenage woman is more likely to get pregnant due to lack of agency (by following existing norms due to peer pressure, or by lacking the negotiating power necessary to make her partner accept the use of contraceptives). Moreover, access to information and education are key factors in the use of contraceptive methods.The report also analyzes the consequences of teenage pregnancy. It points out that teen mothers are less likely to finish secondary education and that teen pregnancy reduces average schooling achievement, school assistance and working hours. Furthermore, the report shows a greater risk of maternal mortality, fetus death, child mortality, and suicide when the mother is a teenager.“Teen pregnancy is relevant from the point of view of development because it’s a manifestation of lack of opportunity and because early motherhood can have implications in terms of encouraging the poverty cycle between generations, social exclusion and high social costs. Addressing this challenge will require better policies, designed to take into account the complexity of the situation,” added Lopez-Calva.According to the report, evidence indicates that reducing inequality and generating greater opportunities for women can contribute to a reduction in the risk of teenage pregnancy and mitigate the effects of early motherhood. Social policies and programs that reduce poverty and gender inequality are crucial to this end.Risk factors can also be addressed with policy interventions that focus on community education, health, and job programs. For example, the report points to evidence suggesting that an increase in school hours reduces teen pregnancy rates.The report also indicates that the objective of these policies should be to expand the set of options available to women, as well as their ability to have an effective control over their lives —strengthening their agency— so that they can make economic and fertility decisions on the basis of the life plans dear to them. Show Less -