Latin America is poised to recover from an economic downturn and thrive, CEOs, entrepreneurs, bankers and leaders of multinational organizations said at BNamericas' LatAm Leaders Forum in Miami, Florida, but there are various challenges that must be addressed for this to occur.
"I believe that Latin America is entering a crucial time," Guatemala's economy minister Rubén Morales Monroy told a packed conference in downtown Miami. "We need to decide if we're going to act just like in the past, or if we're going to change our way of working together."
The event brought together leaders from across the Americas to meet, exchange ideas and discuss plans for the future of the region. It also commemorated the 20-year anniversary of BNamericas, a company founded in Chilean capital Santiago in 1996, and today one of the leading business information companies in Latin America.
"How can everyone enjoy the benefits of our success?" Morales said. "How will our next 100 years be different from the last 100 years?"
The head of outreach and partnerships at the IDB, Bernardo Guillamon, stressed that a rising urban population – in a region that is already the world's most urbanized – as well as increasing resource production, natural disasters and climate change, are major challenges to Latin America's infrastructure.
"We need to double the level of infra investment to 5% of GDP," he said. "And while we have really advanced in reducing poverty and expanding the middle class, without improving education we won't get anywhere."
Financiers, meanwhile, discussed difficulties in funding the region's major infrastructure needs.
"The financial resources are there," Gema Sacristán, chief investment officer at the IIC, said, citing the region's massive pension funds. "What we don't see is enough bankable projects in Latin America."
"For me it all comes down to predictability," said Lynn Tabernacki, the managing director of renewable and clean energy at OPIC. "Investors go in when they can correctly assess the risk."
While the region is vast and each country different, there has been evidence of increasing transparency and longer-term stability across the continent. For example, despite high-level corruption last year in Guatemala, which saw its president and vice president end up in jail, "the rule of law prevailed," minister Morales Monroy said.
"Last August, a student march took place, and two Sundays later the president resigned. Elections took place. Guatemala survived the transition peacefully," he added. "In other times, this would have been a coup with military intervention."
"In macro terms, Latin America has always been volatile," said Adriana Cisneros, CEO of Grupo Cisneros. "It depends on the country and period of time. But if you have the luck of working in more than one country at a time, you can avoid this problem."