Over the last twelve months, it would seem that the habitants of Latin America and the Caribbean are particularly adept at protesting against their leaders and institutions, especially in Brazil, Chile and Costa Rica. Over a one-year period, Brazilian, Chilean and Costa Rican government officers witnessed hundreds of thousands of citizens protesting issues such as crime, corruption, and the lack of low-cost quality public services.
Although there are many differences among the movements, the similarities are striking. First, protesters target problems that have significant impact in their lives: education, transportation and political inefficiency. Second and counter-intuitively, those countries have all enjoyed economic booms recently. Finally, all three countries face important elections in the near-term future. Continue reading →
The latest events in Latin America and the Caribbean provide good examples of the current political and economic tone in the region. On one hand, small and mid-sized economies such as Peru, Colombia, Chile and Mexico are working towards the advancement of the Pacific Alliance – an economic group whose agenda includes free trade and economic integration. On the other hand, a group of not-so-small economies still linger with populist recipes for government intervention, nationalization of companies, and manipulation of published government economic data. Continue reading →
Brazil has been the hot investment ticket internati
IPCA Rate of Inflation. Data source: Banco Central do Brasil.
onally for six to eight years. The common wisdom is that it has outgrown its “country of the future” label and has become a country of the post-2008 financial crisis. Investors now expect Brazil to grow into a first-world economy. Not so fast. While annual growth between 2005 and 2010 was consistently above 5%, it has stagnated since mid-2011. In 2012, its GDP grew a paltry 0.9% — the weakest of the five BRICS countries. It is time to take a cold look at whether the political factors promoting growth in Brazil between 2005 and 2010 are still operational. Continue reading →
Figure 1. Effect of GDP Per Capita on the Social Progress Index (Model 1)
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 1, April 2013.
By Anders Corr, Ph.D.
Social Progress Imperative, a global group that produces well-being data for 50 countries, released their Social Progress Index (SPI) today. The index compares countries not on GDP, but rather on a single quality of life metric as a function of housing, health, education, and environmental sustainability. The index is backed by Harvard Business School professors and the Skoll Foundation (WSJ).
Sweden, Britain, and Switzerland have the best Social Progress Index scores, because these countries have some of the highest GDPs per capita of the fifty countries in the index. It is no coincidence that the three lowest SPI scores – Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Uganda, have very low GDPs per capita. The best way to understand SPI is therefore to control for GDP per capita. Corr Analytics did simple regression analysis on SPI. Approximately 84% of the index is explained by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (see technical details below). Countries with large economies relative to their populations will have more wealth that can be channeled to the basic necessities measured by SPI. Therefore the simpler standard used by economists for decades — GDP per capita — works quite acceptably for well-being. Continue reading →
Despite the political change that just swept Venezuela — which may indicate a decrease in the promotion of socialism from that country — a more powerful influence for Latin American socialism just arose in Rome. Today Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, a name he chose after a Saint known for his asceticism. While socially conservative (e.g., on abortion and gay rights), Cardinal Bergoglio was known to eschew the luxuries of his station for a simple life that included modest quarters, self-cooked meals, and hailing the bus in Buenos Aires. His sermons suggest great sympathy for social justice and the poor, and he comes from Latin America (Washington Post).
Bergoglia’s reputed historical links to 1970s fascism in Argentina, and his political astuteness, means that he wants to prove otherwise. Regardless of his true feelings, it will be hard for him not to play to his massive constituency of poor Catholics in Latin America — the greatest number of Catholics worldwide. Nearly all of Latin America’s poor will be looking to him to address their plight. Regardless of the position he takes on poverty in the future, the lay Catholic ministry in Latin America, and political entrepreneurs farther up the hierarchy, will gain favor among their largely overlapping constituencies for presenting the new Pope as supportive of socialist endeavors. This points to a revival of the liberation theology of the 1980s, and a greater probability of socialist-inspired coups, revolutions, debt defaults, and nationalizations — especially in Latin America.
With the death of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela today, expect increased political stability in Latin America. President Chavez was an activist in international politics, encouraging ideological conflict of the anti-Western and anti-market variety. He used his country’s oil wealth to magnify his voice and achieve these ends. Investments in Venezuela and Latin America will be safer without Chavez.
Concerns that his likely successor, Mr. Maduro, will be more radical (Wall Street Journal) are almost certainly overblown. Mr. Maduro’s comments on foreign influence in the country, and his expulsion of two US diplomats, are likely meant to solidify political support among Chavez supporters. This is a short-term political strategy on the part of Mr. Maduro, without long-term effect on the Venezuelan investment environment.