Category Archives: Latin America and the Caribbean

Democracy and Economic Freedom in Venezuela

Recent developments concerning property rights violations and popular riots in Venezuela remind us that democratic and economic development is not always a gradual forward-looking process but instead is characterized by periods of progress as well as setbacks. Separation of powers, property rights, the rule of law, the respect of human rights and the rights of minorities are essential components of a functioning democratic and free market system.

Reflecting on the challenging situation in Venezuela and the business community’s experience of threats to private property rights, Jorge Roig, President of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce FEDECAMARAS, was invited by the Free Enterprise and Democracy Network to share his views in the latest Economic Reform Feature Service article

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Welcoming Future Business Association and Chamber Leaders

dc chamberlinks participants

Washington, DC area ChamberLINKS participants (from left to right): Frida Mbugua (Kenya), Mariana Araujo (Venezuela), and Nini Panjikidze (Georgia).

This week five young professionals from different countries arrived to the U.S. to partake in CIPE’s ChamberLINKS program. The program, which is taking place for the fifth year, matches rising young stars from chambers of commerce and business associations around the world with similar organizations in the U.S.

This year’s participants and placements include:

For the following six weeks, these participants will shadow senior staff of their host organizations to observe and take part in the daily operations of successful associations.

Through the ChamberLINKS experience, the participants will gain valuable skills such as advocacy, membership development, and events management. At the same time, these international participants will provide their U.S. hosts with intercultural understandings such as insights into how associations operate in other nations.

The program also has a long-term impact because the participants bring back what they learned from their experiences to their home organizations after the program ends. For instance, Kipson Gundani, a 2012 ChamberLINKS program participant, raised funds and created momentum to start several new initiatives at the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) based on his experience at the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma. This included internship programs connecting 50 university students with ZNCC members, evening networking events for ZNCC members, and improving the Chamber’s governance systems by making the board selection process more transparent.

Everyone involved in the program –the international participants, the host organizations, and CIPE – are excited to see what the participants will learn from the next six weeks.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

Open Government and Public Enterprises in Argentina

Argentina's state oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, was privatized in 1993 but partially re-nationalized in 2012.

Argentina’s state oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, was privatized in 1993 but partially re-nationalized in 2012.

Access to information is an integral part of an open democracy. The UNDP defines access to information as encompassing the core principles of democratic governance: participation, transparency, and accountability. And the promotion and protection of both access to information itself and flows of information that exists between constituents, government, civil society organizations and the private sector are of equal importance. Yet, in many countries around the world, transparency or access to information laws are not properly enforced.

Argentina is a good example of this. The Access to Information Decree 1172/03, obliges “the bodies, entities, enterprise, companies, dependencies and all other entity that work under the jurisdiction of the National Executive Branch” to provide public information. The Decree defines private organizations as those either receiving subsidies or contributions from the national government. This definition is particularly important because the percentage of the national budget devoted to public enterprises in Argentina has been increasing – in 2006 it was 2 percent and it rose up to 8 percent by 2012. But are these state-owned enterprises abiding by Decree 1172/03?

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Women’s Economic Participation in Latin America: Closing the Gap

Both candidates in Chile's Dec. 2013 presidential runoff were women.

Both candidates in Chile’s Dec. 2013 presidential runoff were women.

In the past quarter century, the level of women’s economic participation has steadily grown in Latin America. During the first decade of this century, women’s participation grew by 15 percent, contributing to an overall decline in income inequality and extreme poverty. The World Bank estimates that currently 14.6 percent of Latin Americans live in extreme poverty – but contrast that with the hypothetical 17.7 percent had fewer women entered the workforce. Given Latin America’s steady growth in the face of worldwide recession in the 2000s, there’s no reason not to expect more advances for women’s opportunities.

Women’s increased political participation has also helped increase economic opportunities for Latin American women. As more and more female presidents take and hold office, more women consider professional lives outside the home to be viable options. Powerful players such as Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Argentina’s Christina Fernandez, Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla, and others provide focal points for hopeful young Latinas. Perhaps surprisingly to some Americans, many Latin American countries are passing the U.S. in women’s participation in legislatures. Women make up at least 30 percent of the legislature in Cuba, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Argentina, Ecuador, and Guyana. At last count, women make up just 18.5 percent of the U.S. Congress.

Latin America continually ranks highly in female entrepreneurship. The region has great educational and business training opportunities for women, and women make up 50 percent of higher education graduates. In a new index recently released, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay were ranked highest in providing the best environments for female entrepreneurs. However, women still lag in access to financial services.

However, despite these great advances, there is still inequality, room for improvement, and significant challenges facing women in Latin America. According to the World Bank, women face a variety of threats at different stages in their life. The prevalence of violence between intimate partners is estimated to be between 20 and 50 percent of women. Violence against women is widespread – more than half of the countries ranked as “high” or “very high” in levels of femicide are in Latin America – with El Salvador ranked as the worst in the world.

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From the Field: EmprendeAhora Peru Ep. 1 – Jorge

(Watch the video in Spanish.)

During late August 2013, CIPE program officer Brent Ruth and I had the opportunity to travel through Peru to meet with EmprendeAhora alumni who have become amazing entrepreneurs. The purpose of this trip was to conduct an evaluation of the impact these alumni are having in their regions; however, I never could have imagined the impact their stories would have on me.

It was extremely motivating to hear how these alumni, with a little help from the EmprendeAhora program, gained the confidence to believe in themselves and in the entrepreneurial initiatives they’d only dreamed of before. Even more impressive was that they were all interested in doing business with a purpose. For them it was as important to have a positive social impact—if not more important— as to make a profit.

In order to share the positive social impact the EmprendeAhora alumni are having in their regions, Brent and I filmed our interviews with the alumni we met with in Peru. Throughout this year CIPE will publish a series of videos. The first video in the series tells the story of 2008 alum Jorge Luis Cueva Ramírez, co-owner and manager of a retreat hotel, Casa Cumbray Hotel de Campo in La Libertad, Peru.

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Venezuela: Crisis Heightened

venezuela-protest

Youth taking part in anti-government protests. Photo: Reuters

CIPE’s partner CEDICE Libertad joins many other organizations in Venezuela and throughout the world in denouncing the Venezuelan government’s violations against human rights, extending from individual freedoms all the way to citizens’ property rights.

In the past, CEDICE warned in much of its analysis that a crisis might be inevitable if the country continued to implement its radical economic policies. CEDICE mentioned this in the following cost-benefit analyses: utility of popular power laws, the limitations of government profits and the government’s true incentives, public policies pertaining to the education sector, and the law project for territory management in Spanish, which clearly foreshadow the current situation.

On February 17, CEDICE published a press release denouncing the Venezuelan government’s violations of human rights and individual freedoms. Below you can find the English version of this document.

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The Private Sector’s Vested Interest in Citizen Security

Armed security at a Walmart store in Costa Rica, (Photo: La Nacion)

Armed security at a Walmart store in Costa Rica, (Photo: La Nacion)

Security is a fact of life that many of us in the developed world take for granted. I feel fairly confident that I can go about my life on a daily basis with nearly zero contact with crime or violence. Thanks to that security, I feel confident enough to shop, go out to eat, and generally spend time outside of my home and workplace, adding to the local economy. Thanks to this security, my city is growing and developing and life is generally getting better for most people, despite the recent economic recession. Imagine if that were not the case.

At the second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lies safety – the security of body, employment, resources, morality, family, health and property. Intuitively we know that our basic needs must be met before we can endeavor to improve our self, our livelihood, our families, or our communities. Without the feeling of safety, people are less able to act freely in a market – to buy products, start businesses, or invest – limiting a country’s potential for development.

It is with this logic that a recent United Nations Human Development Report argues in favor of increasing measures in citizen security in the Latin America region. In this region more than 100,000 homicides are registered per year. The World Health Organization considers these levels epidemic and they are much higher than most other regions of the world today. The report’s authors state, “The level of insecurity many experience impedes human development.”

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