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Thread: Something to think about when it comes to the Latin America ~ Algo hicimos mal

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    Something to think about when it comes to the Latin America ~ Algo hicimos mal

    Today my dad sent me this, and now I feel like sharing it...

    Quote Quote:
    We did something wrong
    Oscar Arias Sanchez

    WORDS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF COSTA RICA AT THE V SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS

    Trinidad & Tobago, April 18 2009

    I get the impression that every time the Caribbean and Latin American countries get together with the US President, it is to ask him for things or to complain. Usually, it is to blame the US about our past, present and future evils. I don’t think this is completely fair.

    We can’t forget that Latin America had universities before the US created Harvard and William & Mary, which were the first universities in that country. We can’t forget that in this continent, like in the rest of world, at least until 1750, all Americans were more or less the same: all of them were poor.

    When the Industrial Revolution appeared in England, other countries joined the industrial wagon: Germany, France, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand… and, just like that, the Industrial Revolution went over Latin America like a comet, and we didn’t realize it. We certainly missed our chance.

    There’s also a big difference. Comparing Latin American history with US history, one can understand that Latin America didn’t have a Spanish or Portuguese John Winthrop, who came with a Bible in his hand ready to build “a City over a Hill;” a city that could shine, such was the intention of the missionaries who arrived to the US.

    Fifty years ago, Mexico was richer than Portugal. In 1950, a country like Brazil had more income per capita than South Korea. Sixty years ago, Honduras had more money per capita than Singapore, and today, Singapore – in a matter of 35 or 40 years- is a country with an annual income per person of $40,000. Well, us Latin Americans obviously did something wrong.

    What did we do wrong? I can’t even list all the things we have done wrong. Firstly, we only have seven years of schooling. That is the average schooling in Latin America, which is not the case in most Asian countries. This is certainly not the case in countries like the US and Canada, who have the best education in the world, similar to the one in European countries. Out of 10 students who start secondary school in Latin America, only one of them finishes it, in some countries. There’s countries that have a child mortality of 50 kids for every thousand who are born, when the average in the more advanced Asian countries is eight, nine, or 10.

    We have countries where the tax burden is 12% of the GDP, and it is no one’s responsibility but ours that we don’t charge money to the richest people in our countries. No one is to blame, except for us.

    In 1950, every North American citizen was four times richer than a Latin American citizen. Nowadays, North American citizens are 10, 15 or 20 times richer than a Latin American. This is not the US’s fault, it is ours.

    In my address this morning, I referred to an occurrence that I find grotesque, and that the only thing it shows is that the system of values of the 20th century, which we seem to be putting in practice in the 21st century too, is the wrong set of values. Because it can’t be possible that the rich world devotes a hundred billion dollars to alleviate the poverty of 80% of the world’s population- in a world where 2.5 billion human beings have an income of $2 a day- and that they spend 13 times more money in guns and soldiers.

    As I said this morning, it can’t be possible that Latin American countries spend 50 billion dollars in guns and soldiers. I ask myself: who is our enemy? Our enemy, President Correa, of that inequality you so reasonably point out, is the lack of education; it is illiteracy; it is that we don’t spend enough to keep our people healthy; it is that we don’t build the necessary infrastructure, the roads, the ports, the airports; it is that we don’t devote the necessary resources to stop the degradation of the environment; it is that inequality that really shames us; it is the product, among other things, of course, that we are not educating our sons and daughters.

    You go to a Latin American university and it still feels like the 60s, 70s or 80s. It seems that we forgot that on November 9, 1989, something important happened, when the Berlin Wall fell, and the world changed. We have to accept that this world is different, and I frankly think that all academics, all the thinkers, all the economists, and all the historians, almost all agree that the 21st century is the Asian century, not the Latin American century. And I, sadly, agree with them. Because, while we keep discussing about ideologies, we keep arguing about all these “isms” (which one is better? Capitalism, socialism, communism, liberalism, neo-liberalism, social-christianism…), Asians found a very realistic “ism” for the 21st century and the end of the 20th century, which is pragmatism. To cite one example, lets remember when Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore and South Korea. After realizing that his own neighbours where getting rich at a very fast pace, he went back to Beijing and told his Maoist colleagues who walked with him in the Long March, “To tell you the truth, my dear colleagues, I don’t care if the cat is white or black, it only matters if it can chase mice.” And if Mao had been alive, he would’ve died again when he said, “the truth is that getting rich is glorious.” And while the Chinese were doing this, and since ’79 until today they have grown 11%, 12% or 13%, and have freed 300 million citizens from poverty, yet we are still discussing ideologies that we should have buried a long time ago.

    The good news is that Deng Xiaoping achieved this when he was 74 years old. Looking around, dear Presidents, I don’t see anyone close to being 74. That’s why I only ask that we should not wait until we reach that age to make the changes that we have to make.

    Thank you very much.

    Translated by Eva Colmenero.

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    Re: Something to think about when it comes to the Latin America ~ Algo hicimos mal

    Well, I do agree in general terms with the article however I do think his idea of just moving over to pragmatism is quite overly simplistic. Yes, we definitely missed an opportunity here. We see nations in SA engaging in social class fighting, agrarian revolutions (as if agriculture was a real value generator) and a number of fights over the isms however the situation is not quite that asia simply got to pragmatism, they didn't actually solve the ism issues. China in particular didn't just decide to be pragmatic on the matter (as far as latin american countries are concerned they are all pragmatic with whatever revolution they have going on). China has an authoritative government which controls everything and if it doesn't control it then it still owns half of it. They aren't bothering about the isms because they simply don't allow any room for there to be discussion over it. What they have done has worked to a large degree, they have forced shut discussion over the isms and have made their people start making stuff, namely technology and industries which do generate value. I guess latin america is at the opposite end. Its all about the isms, democracy and whatever social revolution each government thinks they have brought forth (even if basically every government in the history of latin america has claimed to brought forth some sort of magical socila revolution, I can't believe most people are not bored with those yet). In turn it is not about making stuff and developing industries and technology at all. Its about agriculture, land redistribution, public sector growth and nationalism along with a few other things which also generate little to no aggregate value.

    Of course, not quite all latin american nations are like that. Brazil is growing relatively fast and is actually the only nation in latin america that can take pride in having and developing actual technology. Even with all the economic and social problems it still has it manages to stay on the margin of the lunacy that chavez or evo preach and continues to grow even with the harsh economic environment. Colombia has nothing but problems but even then it has managed to actually grow over the past 8 years or so, the country is virtually unrecognizable from what it was a decade ago. Peru has grown significantly over the past years (averaging something like 7 or 8% a year or more if I recall) but unfortunately growth has been limited to very few areas and those outside remain largely the same or even comparatively poorer over the years.

    Still, its a very nice speech and in general terms very spot on.

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    Re: Something to think about when it comes to the Latin America ~ Algo hicimos mal

    True XD Although he made it seem like China started to worry about it when they saw how fast their neighbors were developing, and I think that asian countries around China have a less controller government (although I know that Cingapore is also quite strict about many things, but there they work hard on people's mentality and education, so they see the importance in it... they learn about finances early, for example).

    I also think that it wasn't totally fair to compare two whole continents to one country (when he gathered all that data to compare the LA to the US), but I saw the point of it, so I didn't mind. For example, our education 'till the end of the secondary level doesn't last only 7years, but 11. But since every LA contry seems to hold the same grudge, it seems legit that he mixed them all up in the same bunch when he made the comparisons.

    And as a brazilian, I'll have a hard time to see this country as a great advancing force at least for a while... It's unbelievable how much money we 'lose' due to corruption. Whenever I see numbers about it, I get shocked... (8% to 83% of the price of some products represents taxes, and 15% to 27,5% of our wage goes to income tax, and we still pay to study, to have access to hospitals, and so on), It's not just the fact that we're robbed all the time, but it's also the fact that when this money gets lost, it means we're getting behind, it means that we had the potential to be better but we aren't. We could have invested more and we didn't. That's why I like that speech a lot, we were and we still are to blame for our problems and it's up to us to try to fix them.

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    Re: Something to think about when it comes to the Latin America ~ Algo hicimos mal

    Well, maybe not that unfair... What would have been the relevance of comparing the US to just one nation in the Caribbean or south America? The difference in terms of economic power, actual size, technology, industry and education would be overwhelming. The individual nation wouldn't even show on the map... The only nation that would be relevant would be brazil the rest would be invisible. In turn many latin american nations have a lot (perhaps too much) in common in terms of culture, education, food, technology (its perhaps easier to speak in terms of which nations are actually different from the rest) so putting them all together to compare is not that way off. It makes sense and it simplifies stuff. Its not like he had the time or chance to go over each case.


    Maybe I got this piece of data wrong but isn't the reason for which brazil has high taxes because of the sheer amount of money being invested there? Someone explained to me years ago that if they didn't tax so much the country would basically be flooded with invested foreign money and inflation would be uncontrollable. Of course, then the issue would be what happens to all the taxed money. Transparency, accountability on the matter is remarkably hard to manage even in developed nations. I am pretty sure 15% and 27.5% is not that high a number when it comes to income taxes in comparison to other places. I guess even 0.0001% is outrageous if you don't feel you are getting your money's worth though.

    But yes, that SA and latin america in general are in a bad situation is entirely the fault of the people there, not that of other nations and no matter the circumstances nor what other nations may do that will always be the case.

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    Re: Something to think about when it comes to the Latin America ~ Algo hicimos mal

    I meant that when he compared the continents, he turned the countries in it into average numbers^^ I used the example of our education just to ilustrate it, but I guess you're right that his data represents the biggest part of those continents, and in that case (the education one) maybe we were an exception (although I believe that other countries would be exceptions as well, but maybe that's in the SA, and maybe that wouldn't be a representative number).

    Nah, my problem isn't the heavy taxes. As I said, that's a matter of mentality, when you know that the money will go to structure and other investments, then it's ok. My problem it that due to corruption a good part of that money is lost... We won't have the return that would help the development of the country (not the one we expected). And I know that due to corruption, we pay more taxes than it would be necessary. Our income taxes might not seem that high compared to other places, but when you combine it to the taxes over goods and services, we do pay a lot for everything XD But don't get me wrong, I know that that's all necessary, that's how we got rid of our external debt, but I hope that I was able to explain my point about the potential we have and what we're missing^^

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