Latin American Inequality: Our Undersold Reality
Medellín will host the World Economic Forum on Latin America this week. Photo: U.S. Embassy, Bern, Switzerland/Flickr

Medellín will host the World Economic Forum on Latin America this week. Photo: U.S. Embassy, Bern, Switzerland/Flickr

14th June 2016

By Arturo Franco, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center
Top business leaders and leading public figures from across Latin America will meet this week in Medellin to discuss how to help “improve the state of the world” at the annual World Economic Forum on Latin America. And while there is definitely a lot on the table for discussion, —from Venezuela’s imminent collapse, to the (infamous) Fourth Industrial Revolution, to the potential of a Trump presidency—, an unusual guest has made it to the summit’s agenda this year: the topic of income inequality.
Latin America is the most unequal region in the world, and has been, since pre-Colonial times. Yet, in 2015 the richest 10 percent of people in Latin America amassed more than 70 percent of the region’s wealth, according to Oxfam’s calculations. Even worse, the richest 1 percent in the region will soon possess more wealth than the remaining 99 percent of the regions inhabitants. If the distribution of wealth doesn’t convince you as a good parameter to measure inequality, Latin America is also known for other types: regressive taxes, personal income inequality, unequal access to human services and education, and selective application of the law in many countries.
Yet, for decades this condition was seen almost as a “necessary evil” by the many who have promoted the ‘laissez-faire’ approach that most of our economies endorsed in the 80’s and 90’s. And in the rare occasion …

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