Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera emphasized on Monday that Latin America, while grappling with unprecedented challenges, also faces unique opportunities for progress. In the Dominican Republic, Piñera outlined the region's potential in renewable energy natural resources and confronting global issues like climate change and political instability.
10/30/2023.- Sebastián Piñera, former president of Chile presents before the National Assembly of the National Congress, his keynote lecture Political agenda for the economic development of Latin America and the Caribbean. EFE/Orlando Barria
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Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014 and 2018-2022) declared that "never before have Latin America and the Caribbean faced so many challenges" as they do today. However, he also noted that the region has never had so many opportunities, arguing that it possesses what the world needs to progress.
Piñera made these remarks during his keynote speech titled "Political Agenda for Economic Development in Latin America and the Caribbean" at the Chamber of Deputies in the Dominican Republic. He reviewed the current state of the continent and its prospects.
Recovering Lost Time
The former president listed a series of opportunities the continent should seize. These include becoming a global powerhouse in renewable energies, having more than a third of the world's freshwater (an increasingly scarce or unpredictable resource), and a vast mining potential. He pointed out that over a third of the world's reserves are in Latin America, with significant potential in agriculture and tourism.
"The world is currently facing severe problems," he said, referring to geopolitical tensions, conflicts between powers, migrations, wars, accelerating pandemics, terrorism, aging populations, and climate change. These issues are becoming increasingly global, with current world governance still needing to provide solutions.
In light of this global situation, Latin America has a "tremendous mission," as it can contribute to addressing climate change. This is possible not only through the production of renewable energies but also because of its resources like copper, lithium, rare earth, and cobalt, Piñera emphasized.
Pillars of Development
Piñera remarked that Latin America "is a continent that has had everything but has not achieved the most important thing: a democratic society with social justice." He listed several reasons "why we continue to be an underdeveloped continent" and the challenges ahead.
He mentioned the classic development foundations, including a stable political system, a free and open economy, and an inclusive social system. However, he observed, "Latin America has systematically divorced itself from these three pillars."
"We have lived perpetually between dictatorships that give rise to weak democracies," and the continent has not achieved authentic economic integration. "It is a very unequal continent without the conditions to progress in peace."
Additional pillars include education, "the most powerful tool for progress for people and countries." However, "the quality of education in our continent is deficient," as indicated by various international evaluation tests. "This is a gigantic challenge" that requires a "Copernican revolution," he declared.
Another pillar is the investment in science and technology. Latin America invests just 1% in this area, compared to 5% in leading countries like Israel or South Korea, or more than 3% in the U.S. and Germany.
As a third pillar, Piñera mentioned investment, innovation, and entrepreneurship: "The countries that have leaped forward in development have invested 35% of their GDP in these areas (Korea, Taiwan, China), while in Latin America, we invest on average less than 20%."
For Piñera, one of the continent's challenges "is to improve the poor quality of politics, which has been deteriorating." In Latin America, "we have a serious problem with populism," he stated, as an image of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was displayed on the screen of the assembly.
"Populism is promising what is known to be unachievable, promising heaven and delivering hell, trying to deceive people," he affirmed.
Organized crime and drug trafficking are other significant issues in the continent and are snowballing, he warned. He outlined three stages in their evolution: the first, when a country is used as a corridor to other destinations; the second, when local consumption begins with battles to control territory; and the third, when organized crime infiltrates state structures.
Piñera also touched on migration. "In Latin America, we have about seven million migrants, almost all of them from Venezuela," with 7.1 million displaced, compared to 8.2 million from Ukraine and 6.8 million from Syria. He warned that these migrations "cause many imbalances."