University News

Lagos discusses recession impact on South America

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Though its end is nowhere in sight, the current recession could lead to an increasingly globalized world in which developed and developing states will be more inclined to coordinate their economic decisions and policies, former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar told nearly 50 students, faculty and community members at Smith-Buonanno Hall Tuesday night. 

Lagos, who has been a professor-at-large at the Watson Institute for International Studies since July 2007, also said Latin America, in particular, is ready to play a greater role in the international economic arena.

Lagos started his lecture, “Latin America’s economic setback: a global downturn overtakes local progress,” by presenting a brief overview of the Latin American economy in the last ten years, noting its higher growth and lower poverty rates compared to past years. But while Latin American states had followed the economic policies recommended by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, he said the current economic crisis will make it difficult for them to maintain the same level of economic development.

Describing the current situation as the “Latin American frustration,” Lagos said many states in the region believed they had “done their homework” and “been good students.” But he said they are now suffering despite those efforts.

Latin America experienced an uninterrupted growth rate of 5 percent from 2003 to 2008, Escrobar said, adding that the six-year streak will probably be broken in 2009.    
“Now there is a sense that it will take a long time to know when we are going to get to the bottom of this crisis,” he said.

But Latin America, which has faced difficult times in the past such as the Mexican economic crisis in 1994 and the Argentine financial crisis in the last decade, is prepared for the challenges that might come its way in the near future, Lagos said.

The current crisis, he said, illustrated the need for globalized institutions and regulations, adding that it was important for developing states to have a say in global decision-making. He also pointed to the fact that global economic decisions are now being discussed by the G20, a group of the world’s 19 largest economies and the European Union. Unlike the G8, the G20 includes Latin American states such as Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

Lagos currently heads the Club of Madrid, an organization of former presidents that promotes democracy, and is a special United Nations envoy for climate change.
John Walsh ’12, who attended the event and is a Herald designer, told The Herald he enjoyed listening to Lagos, but wished the former president had discussed his personal experiences in greater detail.

“I wish he had spent more time going into specifics about Chile,” Walsh said.