WASHINGTON USA -- Finance Ministers from throughout the Americas and the Caribbean gathered on Wednesday in Washington, DC, to discuss ways to boost growth in the region to compensate for slowing overseas demand and uncertainty in international financial markets.
Representatives of 24 countries were joined by top officials from multilateral organizations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) and the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) for the fifth meeting of finance ministers of the Americas and the Caribbean (RFM Meeting), which this year was chaired by Mauricio Cardenas, minister of finance and public credit of Colombia.
“We all know that the global tailwinds are decelerating, and that’s having an impact on our economies,” said Cardenas, in his opening remarks. “That’s the result of changes in global liquidity, the expected tapering here in the United States, and the reduction in commodity prices that is resulting to a large extent to changes in economic growth from China.”
This is the right time, he said, to discuss ways to boost productivity and reduce informality in the region’s economies, and to create strong engines of growth at home, which will help reduce inequality.
IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno, who also participated in the opening remarks, called on governments to work closely with the private sector through public-private partnerships and other means, to overcome the region’s infrastructure bottlenecks that have been a drag on growth.
“Given the magnitude of the effort required to overcome large infrastructure gaps in our countries, we all agree that private sector participation is absolutely necessary to take on this huge challenge,” Moreno said.
The challenges go beyond infrastructure, however. He added that “much work remains to be done to lower informality in labor markets, to improve education and innovation, to support healthy market competition and ensure equitable tax systems.”
During the rest of the half-day meeting, participants also heard from US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.
The RFM annual meetings began shortly after the 2008 G20 summit, in response to the economic financial crisis, when leaders from the hemisphere agreed to hold an annual policy dialogue to discuss long-term development issues and promote economic integration and cooperation. Previous meetings were held in Mexico, Chile, Peru and Canada.
The IDB serves as technical secretary of the RFM meetings, providing logistical support and coordination, and this year provided the venue for the event.