(May 8, 2015) Equality must be the driving force for economic growth and sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean, stated Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) at the 10th meeting of the World Economic Forum on Latin America (WEF), which ends today in Cancun, Mexico.
ECLAC’s senior representative was one of the speakers at the panel From Poverty to Prosperity held on Thursday in the framework of the event that brings together more than 750 leaders of governments, companies, academia and civil society from 45 countries.
Bárcena shared the session with Joseph E. Stiglitz, Professor at the University of Columbia and Nobel Prize in Economy; Brian Gallagher, President and Chief Executive Officer, United Way Worldwide; Isabel Cecilia Saint Malo De Alvarado, Vice President of Panama; and Alancay Morales, from the organization Forest Peoples Programme, with Marcelo Lins, from the Brazilian network Globo, as a moderator.
The participants agreed on the need to “share prosperity” amongst every member of society to guarantee not only equality of rights but also a path of sustainable economic growth.
The senior representative emphasized that the region’s main issue is inequality, which must be tackled with social pacts based on a new State-market-society equation. She added that the rules of engagement among these actors should be revised in favor of goals for the common good, prioritizing rights-based employment and environmental sustainability. In Latin America and the Caribbean, she said, 10% of the wealthiest population receives 40% of all income, while the poorest 10% has access to only 12%.
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary mentioned the need to rise the average regional tax rate from 18% to 20% in order to increase public revenues in about 60 billion dollars per year. She explained that investment levels should also be increased, both public and private, from 20% to 27% annual at least. It is necessary to protect the physical and social (education) investment during the recessive stages of the economic cycle within counter-cyclical frameworks, especially in those countries with enough fiscal space, she said.
According to Bárcena, pacts between workers and corporate leaders are required in order to increase employee capacities, and also a pact for the governance of natural resources that allows the transformation of this capital into other forms of capital and investment. It is also urgent to foster a participative process in defining the new post-2015 development agenda, which includes the fight against climate change and environmental destruction. This calls for mechanisms that give access to information, participation and environmental justice, through instruments such as previous and informed consent.
“The new Sustainable Development Goals (which will replace the Millennium Development Goals) aim not only at eradicating poverty but are also expected to reduce inequality,” Bárcena stated during the panel, where the specific situation of certain sectors of the population, such as the youth and indigenous peoples, was also addressed.
Finally, the United Nations official invited participants to ask themselves what kind of society we want to be in 2030, making an appeal to change from a culture of extractivism towards a culture of sustainability and to defeat the functional inequality that favors capital revenues over labour.
Throughout the duration of the meeting, which started on Wednesday, Bárcena acted as moderator and was a participant in different sessions where issues related to inclusive growth in Latin America and the Caribbean were discussed, along with priorities for governmental reforms and democratic stability in the region, among others.