20110909

Latin American decade? - WEF: a call for innovation


The spanish newspaper El País refers to the Global Competitiveness Report issued by the World Economic Forum, in an article published in it print and online edition today. The article highlights as one of the main conclusions of the report, the potential of Latin America as the most dynamic economic area in the world.

The conclusions of the report concerning Latin America are:

The rapid and robust recovery of Latin America from the global economic downturn has demonstrated the economic and financial strength of the region. Efforts to maintain a stable macroeconomic framework coupled with a buoyant international demand for commodities and strong internal consumption have paved the way for this good result and for positive forecasts for its future economic growth. This optimistic outlook has led many to speak about a “Latin American decade” to describe the expectations of economic progress for the region, similar to that experienced in many Asian economies in the past decade. Notwithstanding past improvements and positive prospects, the persistence of low productivity rates casts some doubt about the capacity of the region to sustain this recent economic growth in the long run.


1 Overall, the region still suffers from important bottlenecks that hamper competitiveness. Among these are physical insecurity, a weak institutional framework, poor infrastructure, and, in some cases, low levels of competition and rigid labor markets. Moreover, as several countries steadily move toward higher stages of development, a new challenge gains increasing importance: the need to boost innovation. Innovation is widely recognized as one of the most important engines behind productivity gains and societal progress. Innovation, defined broadly as the capacity to bring new ideas into the market, allows companies—and countries—to shift toward higher value-added activities, secure higher-paid jobs, and address important societal challenges such as climate change, pollution, and poor health.
Traditionally, innovation has been dominated by developed economies. However, the global landscape of innovation is rapidly changing with the appearance of new players. In the past decade, emerging economies such as China have boosted their innovation performance, becoming important centers of R&D investment, publications, and patent applications.

2 While innovation is a broader concept than technological development, these indicators show the sharp rise of the capacity of the new players to generate new knowledge. In this changing context, Latin America seems to trail many other countries. The Global Competitiveness Index includes several indicators that measure the conditions and performance of innovation. As Figure1 shows, on average, Latin America has had a relatively stable innovation performance in recent years, although it is still lagging substantially behind Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) economies. Moreover, while some countries such as China have started to catch up with advanced economies, Latin America has not managed to start converging yet.






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