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LATIN AMERICAN DONORS’ DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION POLICIES

Last February, the Development Policy Centre at Crawford School of Public Policy of ANU hold the 2014 Australasian Aid and International Development Policy Workshop. The event had more than 50 papers spread over some 19 plenary and panel sessions, session topics include: changing aid frameworks, labour mobility, disaster management, health and aid, fragile states and governance, and more.

ANCLAS Deputy Director Dr. Sean Burges and Carmen Robledo, ANCLAS Associate and PhD candidate at the School of Politics of International Relations of ANU represented ANCLAS in the event.

Dr. Burges participated in the  a plenary panel session – Making their mark: the BRICS and aid with the presentation titled “Brazil’s international development cooperation: old and new motivations”. To read an abstract of Dr. Bruges’ presentation visit the DevPolicy blog.

Ms. Carmen Robledo participated in a panel on donors studies. Her presentation focused on the motivations driving developing assistance policies in Latin America. To see the slides of Carmen’s presentation click here and to read an abstract of this presentation see her contribution on the DevPolicy blog.

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Filed under Analysis, Brazil, BRICS, Development, Foreign aid, Uncategorized

MEASURING WELL-BEING IN A CONTINENT OF CONTRASTS

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A few days ago, Forbes magazine released the 2014 list of World’s billionaires. Seven Latin American billionaires made the top 100, with Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim, in the second spot. In total, there are almost 100 billionaires in the continent and their combined fortunes add up to US$500 billion.  But on the other hand,  Latin America is still home of 160 million of poor, equivalent to 35% of the population in the region (World Bank data), despite intense governmental efforts to reduce poverty.

Furthermore, the OECD in the report How’s life in 2013 noted that countries, such as Mexico and Chile are way below the OECD average of GDP per capita and gini coefficient. However, the report also mentions that despite economic difficulties faced by the population, Brazil, Mexico and Chile have higher spreads of life satisfaction. In fact, out of range from 1 to 10, Mexico scored 7.3, Brazil got 6.7 and Chile scored 6.5 just below the 6.6 OECD average score.

The How’s life in 2013 report shows a new approach to quantify and understand poverty. At first well-being of population was measured only on the basis of material resources reflected on the GDP per capita. In the early 1990s, the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) incorporated health and education. Today, several countries are shifting to more comprehensive forms of measurement. This new methodology seems to take on board the approach based on capabilities (functionings) that Amartya Sen fiercely defended.

In 2008, Mexico started using this method in its poverty measurements and included six basic social rights in the Law for Social Development. Also, Colombia, El Salvador and the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais have included multidimensional approaches to measure poverty. These governments sought to a better assessment of the capabilities and potential of citizens.

But what exactly is a multidimensional approach of poverty? Poverty itself has several aspects. Poverty measurements should include elements that could cause or further increase the situation of deprivation populations. El Salvador, for instance, identified eight dimensions to be observed and addressed as part of its poverty measurements: employment, housing, education, security, recreation, health, nutrition and income. Colombia chose to evaluate social and health conditions by measuring the following five conditions: education, childhood and youth, labour, health and access to household utilities. While Mexico selected educational, access to healthcare, social security, housing quality, access to basic services and nourishment. In turn, based on these elements the Mexican government classified deprivation in three categories: 1) food insecurity (extreme poverty), 2) obstacles to development of capabilities (access to education and health) and 3) material deprivation (access to adequate housing and transport).

This trend is not unique to Latin America; Bhutan, Malaysia and some areas in China have also adopted it. The most commonly known is the Gross National Happiness Index of Bhutan that includes nine dimensions.

The importance of a multidimensional poverty approach is based in the fact that it highlights aspects that are lagging behind and that require intervention. In other words, by having measurements of different dimensions of deprivation, decision-makers are able to identify elements that need immediate attention of public policies. Policy-makers can also observe progress of social policies and can reassess the continuation or reformulation of current strategies.

While developing countries have made significant efforts to better understand and find solutions to address poverty, results are meager and governments still face enormous challenges. The multidimensional index is a photographic representation of the reality of poverty. To change the socio-economic landscape of the continent of contrasts, coordinated public and private efforts, along with civil society engagement, are in most need to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality.

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Filed under Analysis, Countries / Regions, Development, Macroeconomics, Uncategorized

LESSONS FROM MEXICAN ECONOMIC REFORMS.

John Kehoe, from the Australian Financial Review, published today an op-ed on the economic reforms undertaken by Mexican President Peña Nieto.  Kehoe highlights the political agreement reached among the three major parties (PRI, PAN, PRD) that have enable the current administration to pass the much needed reforms (previous post). Despite outstanding challenges to overcome, such as violence and corruption, Mexico earned ‘A’ grade sovereign rate from Moody’s credit rating agency as a result of such reforms.

 

Kehoe further notes Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey comments, on Mexico’s efforts to undertake domestic reforms to cope with global volatility. Last weekend in Sydney, G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors committed to promote a resilient financial system and to foster a conducive investment environment. The author concludes that Mexico, along with other developing countries, is in a much better position to fulfill the G20 commitments.

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Filed under Foreign investment, Global Governance, Macroeconomics, Mexico, News brief, Uncategorized

Peña Nieto on the front cover of TIME magazine

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Last 16 February, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto made the front cover of TIME magazine. This issue spark off a heated debated in social media in Mexico, criticising Michael Crowley, the author, and TIME for allegedly “selling out” themselves to the Peña Nieto government.

As Crowley rightly points out, Peña Nieto only won the presidential election with 38% of the votes and therefore it is evident that his detractors react this way. I agree that perhaps the title of the story would have been better with an interrogation mark at the end: “SAVING MEXICO?”, but I must concede that the author presents both sides of the same coin. He highlights achievements and strengths of the country, but also points out the numerous challenges that the current government still has to overcome.

At the same time, I must recognise the sharp Mexican humor to transform the cover into this one.

In any case, I strongly invite you to read the article (or Spanish version) and make your own judgement.

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Filed under Corruption, Democracy, Development, Foreign investment, Macroeconomics, Mexico, News brief, Security, Uncategorized

Thought-provoking comparison of events in Egypt and Latin America’s dirty war

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The New York times has published an interesting article that reflects on the history of military dictatorships in Latin America and finds some parallels with contemporary events in Egypt. Whether you agree or not, it’s certainly an interesting read that gives some worthwhile comparative insights. The article provides analysis on the coups in Chile and Argentina, the current anti-US sentiment in Latin America, and the role of the military in Egypt, all of this against a backdrop of some degree of US complicity.

An interesting read. Find the article here.

Here is a quote:

“The no-holds-barred military terror in Egypt, and the language the military is employing to justify it, is reminiscent of the worst of human legacies. These are the sort of statements made not by ordinary armies but by armies that have embraced ideological convictions that make it easy to shoot down people in the streets, even civilians, if you believe that they are with the terrorists—or whatever it is you decide to call them.”

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PEÑA NIETO’S CHALLENGE: CRIMINAL CARTEL AND RULE OF LAW IN MEXICO

International Crisis Group (ICG) recently published a report on criminal cartels activity in Mexico and the government’s strategy against them. The document presents an analysis of the situation and revises the strategies implemented by previous PAN government and the challenges and opportunities to the current administration.

crimenThe report highlights the participation of the three main political parties in the Pacto por Mexico proposed by Peña Nieto’s administration. The pact allowed the government to pass several major reforms, but in this particular case, the three parties backed up the security plan launched by Peña Nieto. ICG notes that the former PAN administration implemented a strategy to “fight a war” but if Peña Nieto wishes to finish with the violence in Mexico, his government needs to include additional actions, such as institutional capacity building, reinforcing police and justice systems and improving social inclusion programs.

The violent situation in Mexico is not only a challenge for the country, but also for Mexico’s Northern neighbour. The report indicates that the violence escalated after the US legislative ban in assault weapons ended in 2004. Mexico is confronted to domestic pressure to finish with criminal activity and externally to stop the flow of narcotics. Furthermore, Mexico’s situation seems relevant for other countries around the globe facing similar circumstances.

To download full report click here.

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Filed under Analysis, Corruption, Mexico, Security

Aztec tiger begins to sharpen its claws

The Financial Times published an interesting article on Mexico’s economic environment. It highlights the prudent fiscal and monetary policies that the country has implemented recently, creating a sound macroeconomic environment.

Furthermore, the journalist underlines the structural reforms that President Peña Nieto was able to promote, as a result of the pact established with the main political forces of the country. Mexico is in the track of industrialisation, but still has a long way to go. Peña Nieto’s government needs to capitalize the momentum and continue further with other important reforms, such as the energy sector and tax schemes.

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Filed under Foreign investment, Macroeconomics, Mexico, News brief, Trade, Uncategorized

‘RELAUNCHING’ CHINA-MEXICO RELATIONS: President Xi Jinping visit to Mexico

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Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mexico, as part of his first trip to the Americas. Earlier this year, during a trip to China to participate in the Boao Forum for Asia, President Peña Nieto extended an invitation to the Chinese President to visit Mexico. China and Mexico established diplomatic relations in 1972, but bilateral contacts are much older than that. In the XVIth Century, during the Spanish colony ships sailed the Pacific loaded with precious metals, cacao grains, avocados, tomatoes and other articles from the Americas that were exchanged for Asian spices, Chinese tea, porcelain and fabrics, especially silk.

For most of the last 40 years, the relations between the countries were quite cordial, during the last ten years. However, diplomatic mishaps and a policy that sought to bring Mexico closer to the US, during the Fox and Calderon administrations, provoked the Mexican neglect of strategic partners in other parts of the world, and in particular in Asia. Despite regular high-level encounters in international fora, such as APEC or G20, and the signing of cooperation agreements in numerous sectors, trade rivalry overshadowed  Sino-Mexican bilateral relations.

Unlike the rest of Latin-America, the economic relationship with Mexico has not been based on Chinese investment to ensure the flow of raw materials to fuel China’s industry. In fact, cheap Chinese labour made Mexico and China direct competitors in the US market;  in some cases, Chinese manufactures displaced national production in the Mexican domestic market. Furthermore, the bilateral trade deficit is heavily favorable to China; in 2012 Chinese exports to Mexico accounted for USD$57 billion, while Mexican exports to China were USD$5.7  billion (according to the Mexican Ministry of Trade, www.economia.gob.mx).

The occasion to relaunch the bilateral relationship could not be better. Each President has recently taken office and both countries seek to reaffirm their positions as global actors. On the domestic side, President Peña Nieto’s administration started a series of structural reforms to increase economic productivity, while China seeks to maintain its economic momentum. The increase of Chinese wages and international oil prices has narrowed down the productivity gap between Chinese and Mexican products. China’s products are not as cheap as they used to, in some cases, it is cheaper and certainly quicker to import from Mexico than from China for US companies. These elements helped Mexico to leave aside fears and realise the economic potential of complementing, rather than competing with, Chinese partners.

With the aims to enhance mutual trust, expand cooperation and deepen friendship, Peña Nieto and Xi Jinping announced the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. This agreement aims to push for comprehensive, in-depth and mutual cooperation between the two countries and to make positive contributions to world peace, stability and prosperity. A permanent bilateral commission and working groups will follow the commitments established in the Partnership by the leaders.

Likewise, the two Presidents agreed to move forward, solving the long standing conflicts on pork, tequila and textiles trade. They committed to increase trade and investment and established a high-level business forum. Mexico and China also signed memoranda of understanding to improve cooperation in energy, biotechnology, mining, financial services and sport.

Additionally, President Peña Nieto and President Xi Jinping will encourage deeper people-to-people links. To start, the Chinese government will increase the number of scholarships offered to Mexican students from 40 to 300 per year. To increase cultural and academic exchanges, a Mexican cultural centre in Beijing and a centre specialising on Chinese studies in the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) will be opened. Finally, as symbol of the two countries’ endeavours to boost tourism flows, during the last day of the visit, President Xi Jinping and his wife visited the archaeological site of Chichen-Itza.

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Some specialists point out that the Chinese visit to Latin America is a sign to the US. China is pointing out that it has interests in other parts of the world, and is not afraid to contest US hegemony, even in the its back yard. Similarly, the US could interpret the visit as a payback for the recent increase in US engagement in Asia, China’s back yard. In any case, this is a perfect environment for Mexico’s diversification, since it could help to break the Mexican trade dependency on the US and to reaffirm itself as a key global player.

As said by President Xi Jiping in his address to the Mexican Senate*, China has a population of 1,300 million, is the second largest importer, expects to invest overseas more than USD$500, and more than 400 million of Chinese tourists will travel around the world in the next few years. This is an incredible opportunity for countries in Latin America, and of course for Mexico. The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership has opened the path for a promising future for Sino-Mexican relations.

 Mexico cannot waste this opportunity…


* I do encourage you to read President Xi Jinping’s speech to the Mexican Senate.

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Filed under BRICS, Development, Foreign investment, Mexico, News brief, Trade, Uncategorized

5 DE MAYO, MONROE DOCTRINE AND US-MEX RELATIONS

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In 1861, a large contingent of French, British and Spanish troops arrived on Mexican shores to support the imposition of Maximilian of Habsbourg as emperor of Mexico. The French contingent advanced to Mexico City and encountered resistance in the city of Puebla where, on the 5th of May of 1862, they were defeated by a small Mexican battalion  and eventually fled the country.

Every year on the 5th of May large festivities take place to celebrate the Mexican victory  in the Batalla de Puebla against the French Army. To the surprise of many, 5 de mayo is not Mexico’s national day (Mexico commemorates its national day on the anniversary of its independence, 16th of September). In reality,  5th of May is only one of many other celebrations in the Mexican historical calendar. It actually has become famous around the world thanks to huge range of festivities organised by Mexican-American communities in the US.

The battle of Puebla is significant not only because a small unprepared Mexican army defeated and expelled the French from Mexican territory, but because it represents the last attempt of European powers to invade American territory. To the satisfaction of President James Monroe, his famous doctrine “America for the Americans” had finally become a reality (I would like to stress that we refer to America as the continent, and Americans as the population of this continent and not to the narrow and commonly used reference of America as the United States and Americans as its citizens).

Throughout the history of relations between the US and Latin America, the Monroe Doctrine has had many and, in some cases, quite broad interpretations. Although military interventions have become rather rare, cover operations and other forms of interference have been widely used in the continent. The end of the Cold War shifted the attention of the US to other regions of the world. However, despite fervorous calls for national sovereignty, there were still claims of substantial US engagement in Latin America’s domestic affairs.

Unsurprisingly, Mexico has not been spared and in reality perhaps has suffered more than any other nation in the region. Geographical proximity, economic interdependence, social interconnection and common challenges have resulted in a very  complex relationship between the US and Mexico; but at the same time, this complexity has allowed the multiplication of numerous avenues for mutual collaboration.

During his recent visit to Mexico, President Obama highlighted the importance for the two countries to strengthen the bilateral relationship. Both Presidents focused their discussions on increasing efforts for further collaboration on trade and investment, energy security, education, innovation and competitiveness.

Nevertheless, it did not take long for criticisms on both sides of the border. Security and immigration, crucial issues for the bilateral agenda, had not been sufficiently discussed and were barely mentioned in official communiques. On the Mexican side, despite general agreement that these two topics should not overrun the bilateral relation, Mexico would like to see further US engagement in this regard (for instance, the immigration reform and larger arms control). While on the American side, criticism has focused on the importance of deepening cooperation to fight organised crime and see Peña Nieto’s measures to scale down US intelligence and security agents involvement in Mexico, as a sign of mistrust.

Critique became particularly sharp when Mexico’s new administration policies were compared to the wider cooperation and greater access that existed with the previous PAN government. Regular surveyance flights over Mexican territory, the establishment of ‘coordinating’ offices in Mexico City and Nuevo León and the free circulation of armed agents of FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), ICS (Immigration and Citizenship Services), ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and NSA (National Security Agency) does not appear to be the kind of close bilateral cooperation that PRI would prefer.

Despite restrictions on US involvement in the fight against organised crime and other domestic issues, it appears that we are far away from a definite adiós to the Monroe Doctrine in the hemisphere. Certainly, old style military interventions seem unlikely, but new IT resources, the interdependence of global markets and transnational societies have provided a new arsenal of interference tools that perhaps can prove to be ever more effective than traditional ones.….

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Filed under Mexico, Security, Uncategorized

WEF Latin America 2013

WEF

Since yesterday, more than 400 personalities, including heads of states and representatives from the private sector, academia and civil society, are gathered in the Peruvian capital, Lima, to participate in the 2013 World Economic Forum (WEF) Latin America. They will  discuss about challenges and  opportunities around the topic of “delivering growth and strengthening societies”.  Latin America has registered constant rates of economic growth in recent years.  However, there are big challenges ahead in terms of inequality and exclusion, and especially insecurity.

The program of the  event is organised around the following three pillars:

1) Modernizing economies for growth.

2) Strengthening society through innovation.

3) Building resilience for sustainable development.

Follow live panel discussions on: http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/dg_e/dg_selection_process_e.htm

Program:  http://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-latin-america-2013/programme

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