Jorge Familiar, vice president of the World Bank for Latin America and the Caribbean, spoke to graduate business students on Monday about the importance of pushing forth an infrastructure- and development-focused agenda in Latin America.
In his position, Familiar leads a portfolio of projects, technical assistance and grants that are worth more than $31 billion, according to the World Bank website.
Citing the region’s turbulent history, Familiar voiced his concerns for the global protectionist movement as one that is “not helpful for a region that is moving away from it.”
Still, he advocated for teamwork among Latin American countries to help the region work cohesively as a unit.
Citing a “factory Asia model,” Familiar suggested that “[Latin American] countries should trade among themselves … [and] together, face a competitive environment globally.”
Familiar cited many of the problems faced by Latin American countries today — crime and violence, quality and access to education, and gangs — as hurdles that needed to be overcome for the region to develop competitively.
Furthermore, he said that “the level of disenchantment with political parties … and even with democracy … is the lowest historically.”
“Latin America was, and still is, the most unequal region in the world,” Familiar said. “[But] for the first time in history, you have more Latin Americans living in the middle class than in poverty.”
He also argued that the growing middle class is driving social change, and he promoted the World Bank development programs as beneficial for the region. When discussing the role of the World Bank itself in increasing regional development, he emphasized its role in providing small amounts of finance and policy advice, as well as creating spaces to have conversations among countries for the improvement of the region.
However, he warned that this positive trajectory was precarious. In the next 18 months or less, 75 percent of Latin Americans will be electing their next president “which could be, pretty much, an inflection point,” he said.