Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) economies are expected to grow by 3.5 percent this year. Despite decades of job creation and significant improvements to the business environment, many countries in the region still face challenges which constrain local companies and hamper their productivity. Some countries have become regional champions in regulatory reform practices, such as streamlining business start-up procedures, introducing electronic tax payment systems to improve compliance, and reducing barriers to regional trade to promote economic integration. Others are seeing the potential to improve their productivity in order to achieve greater growth and competitiveness.
The World Bank Group is helping countries in the region boost private sector growth and productivity by supporting reforms that reduce costs, strengthen fair competition, and promote investment.
To highlight such regulatory reform practices, encourage knowledge sharing, and identify best practices that can be implemented across the region, in cooperation with the Ministry of the Presidency of the Republic of Panama, the World Bank Group hosted an international conference in Panama City, convening government officials from Latin American and Caribbean countries and global experts that have pursued successful investment climate reforms. Over 100 participants attended the two-day forum, including delegations from Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Suriname, and Uruguay.
Hasan Tuluy, World Bank Regional Vice President for LAC, opened the conference emphasizing that, "The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have shown they can overcome difficulties. Making reforms to improve the investment climate is possible. We hope that this workshop will serve as a platform for countries to share experiences, discuss how to adapt them to their current realities, and ways to systematically measure and evaluate impact."
The workshop provided a forum for dialogue on different country experiences including in some key areas like facilitating regional integration and trade. For example, Jamaica, Grenada and El Salvador were among the delegations interested in learning from Panama on how to facilitate trade. In his introductory remarks to the event, Minister Roberto Henriquez, Minister of the Presidency of the Republic of Panama, encouraged participants to exchange experiences, and expressed Panama's readiness to work with other countries to implement reforms in the area of trade facilitation: "We have a logistics platform to serve international markets. We will have the opportunity in the next two days to share such models."
Participants embraced the objective to share experiences, and engaged in fruitful exchanges throughout the two days "Working on a shared regional agenda with the World Bank Group and our colleagues in neighboring countries on the issue of competitiveness is important. If we can have a place for discussion there could be amazing synergies." said Sergio De La Torre, the Minister of Economy of Guatemala.
The event helped to:
- Encourage peer-to-peer learning and collaboration: participating countries exchanged good practices and technical advice with one another, learning from collective reform experiences. The event also highlighted examples of other good practice models of regional collaboration like the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) initiative bringing representatives from the APEC Secretariat and member governments who shared their approach on technical assistance exchanges between member states aimed at tackling specific investment climate issues.
- Bring together a network of reformers across LAC: it provided a regional forum for participating delegates to deepen ties with each other, connect with top reforming countries inside and outside of the region, and brainstorm ways to replicate best practices or collaborate.
- Create awareness of and will for investment climate reforms: there was a strong acknowledgement of the need to work together among the delegates, and a willingness to share what worked, what didn't work in various countries in terms of investment climate reforms. Strong local and regional media coverage helped generate visibility for the event and create a momentum for follow-up.
The World Bank Group team is facilitating follow-up plans between several countries to learn from each other around specific reforms. There is for example strong interest from some countries in the region to learn from Panama and Singapore on their trade logistics experiences. Other countries are keen to learn from Chile's experience in reforming business entry procedures.
More details on the event, including presentations can be found here.
Feedback from participants on the workshop was very positive. "This has been extremely useful. Before I came here I had been searching for good examples of materials that can be used to provide information to investors, on areas like investment policies and incentives. I had a very productive discussion this morning with Panamanian colleagues who have this type of information packaged for investors that they were able to share with me", said Omar Chedda, Director of Investment for Jamaica's Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce.
The event aimed at sharing business environment reforms that will encourage formal job creation, entrepreneurship, and productivity. It also supported the World Bank Group's strategy for the region to improve the investment climate with a focus on small Caribbean and Central American states, and supporting inclusive growth.