By Cynthia J. Arnson, Director, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson Center
Those following Latin America’s current economic (mis)fortunes don’t need more grim news from the hemisphere. But two new reports, one from the UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) and another from the Inter-American Centre of Tax Administration (CIAT), produced jointly with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Inter-American Development Bank, and CEPAL, highlight the deepening challenges while also hinting at a potential path forward.
On March 22, 2016, CEPAL released its latest Social Panorama of Latin America, demonstrating that the rate of regional poverty in 2015 is likely to have crept up to 29.2 percent of the population, a slight increase over 2014. That translates into 175 million people below the poverty line, with 75 million considered indigent. As with all regional averages, CEPAL notes that poverty rose in some countries while declining in others. But it’s the trend that’s worrisome. Following a decade of historic gains in poverty reduction in Latin America, the trend began to stall in 2012 as commodity prices plummeted, Chinese growth slowed, and a stronger dollar worsened the region’s terms of trade. Now the gains have been reversed altogether, with unsettling consequences for politics.
CEPAL director Alicia Bárcena voiced concern two years ago that Latin America had not taken advantage of the region’s recovery from the …
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