Monday, October 27, 2014

"Re-Industrializing" Latin America

UNASUR Secretary General (and former Colombian president) Ernesto Samper made some comments you don't hear much anymore. He noted that growth would be slowing across the region:

But he also pointed out to the existence of strong points such as the strategic reserves of oil, nickel, copper, hydro power and water resources. “But to all this we must inject added value, and the objective of Latin America should be to overcome the situation by launching an ambitious re-industrialization process”.

This sounds so much like the process I discuss in my Latin American Politics class about the development of import-substitution industrialization in the middle of the twentieth century. Or at least I assume this is the sort of thing Samper is thinking about, though he does not specify. I talk about adding value a lot in the class.

The idea of "re-industrialization" is problematic because many countries barely went through it in the past. Would Guatemala really be re-industrializing? If this is restricted only to the larger economies, then it is also confusing. Is Brazil not industrial? I guess any country could become more industrial, but that's not quite the same thing.

Setting aside that parsing, I actually like the idea of making this a greater part of the development discussion. I've been repeating constantly on this blog that relaying on commodities remains a problem--it's not easy to overcome, but should be seriously discussed.


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