According to the organizers of the event, the edition of the World Economic Forum that concludes today at the stroke of noon had the highest number of participants in history: 2,700. Nevertheless, Although there was a presence of people from the five continents, Latin America once again had a relatively discreet appearance.

Yes, with the exception of Colombia, which had a delegation that included people from the Government, the business sector and academia, the other medium-sized or large countries had a much more discreet profile. It is true that, apart from Gustavo Petro, the presidents of Ecuador and Costa Rica arrived, as well as the vice president of the Dominican Republic, but the veterans of the appointment speak of the past.

Gone are the days in which the greats of the region such as Brazil and Mexico made themselves felt, beginning with their respective mandates. Argentina, Chile or Peru were also much more active. Now, presidents like Andrés Manuel López Obrador or Gabriel Boric do not seem to be attracted to the idea of ​​leaving their borders, not to mention those who have internal problems.

To this is added a mediocre economic performance that contrasts with the boom of the beginning of the century. If some do not come, the audience does not give the impression that they are looking forward to them either, although there are issues that attract attention, such as the care of the Amazon.

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The lack of an adequate rhythm so that this part of the world can advance quickly in the solution of its social problems is one of the concerns of the Brazilian Ilan Goldfajn, who a few weeks ago assumed the presidency of the Inter-American Development Bank. Present in Davos, he spoke exclusively with EL TIEMPO.

What is your appreciation of the situation in Latin America?

The region has important challenges, among others because we are in a more difficult global moment. Inflation is higher, which has caused the reaction of central banks, which in turn generates a slowdown. This forces us to look a little more towards the medium term, trying to spend the coming months in the best possible way.

We had a growth problem before the pandemic, which apparently continues. Why?

Inflation is higher, which has caused the reaction of central banks, which in turn generates a slowdown.

There are structural elements that range from what we invest in education to rigidities in multiple markets. In addition, we find challenges of a social order, such as the increase in poverty that resulted from the pandemic or the increase in food prices. And this is combined with the need to increase infrastructure, both physical and digital, as well as to react appropriately to global warming, in the midst of great resource constraints.

Interest rates are much higher than they were a few years ago and the region is more indebted…

We require economic policies that focus on the efficiency of spending, because we are not going to have the funds that are needed to attend to everything that our societies ask for. This means that a good prioritization effort must be made to define what is chosen and what is not.

Several countries have tried to increase spending and find sources of income, as Colombia did. But concerns about fiscal sustainability depend…

It must be properly looked at are the demands of the citizens. They ask us, for example, to protect the most vulnerable as a way to face poverty and inequality that manifests itself not only in terms of income, but also gender or skin color. Neither can the response to climate change and the risks it brings be forgotten. Many of those demands were not present a few decades ago. One of the ways to answer is to examine expenses that were valid at other times, as could be the case with some subsidies. And to that is added the resources.

What do I propose?

Apart from the obvious output of more taxes, we return to the question at the beginning: we must think about growth and how to accelerate it. We have a diagnosis of our low productivity that does not depend, however, on spending more, but on having adequate policies or a good business environment. If we are more dynamic, our tax authorities will improve their collection.

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There has been a lot of talk here about the energy transition, which is now more expensive because interest rates have risen…

That is a global problem for which there can be no global solutions. I see that there is a growing awareness of possible solutions and a greater willingness to help on the part of the more developed nations.

Does this process represent a crisis or an opportunity for Latin America?

Obviously there is a challenge. But at the same time, what has been pointed out so many times is true. We are the region best prepared for the development of clean energy and, therefore, we can offer a solution to the planet.

Countries, like Colombia, want to speed up the process of leaving fossil fuels behind. How to evaluate that position?

I find that there is a will to reach the decarbonization goals that the different countries of the region have committed to. In this process, the transition must be responsible and requires a clear and well-defined roadmap from each nation. Regarding accelerating or not, it is something that deserves to be evaluated individually.

It has been said that after the pandemic the world changed, because beyond the reopening we are not the same as before. How is the IDB adapting to the new realities?

We are the region best prepared for the development of clean energy and, therefore, we can offer a solution to the planet

The IDB is obliged to seek common ground between different visions of development. The world is already full of discordant visions, disputes, polarization. However, we are obliged to understand each other and register that there are tacit or explicit agreements that are there. An example is that of the Amazon and its protection, about which there is no discussion. And as far as we are concerned, the consensus is that a stronger and better IDB is required.

Is there an environment for a new capital increase?

We have different vehicles to work either with the private sector or promote entrepreneurship, in addition to the loans that we have traditionally made. Here the important thing is to start by defining the objectives and the route to follow, as well as the cost of capital. An evaluation we have shows that 53 percent of the bank’s loans are effective and achieve their goals, but I think we can do better. That is where we must start.

There is a phrase according to which in the economy little matters more than politics, which in the region is full of turbulence. How worried are you?

Here the important thing is the institutions and the progress of democracy. No doubt a deterioration on that front hurts the economy. We will continue to be committed to democratic values ​​and respect for rights, which are a starting point for us to act and help countries find internal consensus.

How optimistic are you about the region?

There is no doubt that we have great potential. The point is how to develop it and how to be persistent, since there are problems that can be solved quickly and others that are more structural. Because, When I gave my inaugural speech a few days ago, I spoke of patience, because we are not going to solve everything overnight, but also of persistence. To really get there, you have to insist.

RICARDO AVILA – SENIOR ANALYST
​SPECIAL WEATHER ENVOY TO DAVOS, SWITZERLAND
Twitter: @ravilapinto