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Fact Sheet: Charting a New Course on Cuba

December 19, 2014 Comments off

Charting a New Course on Cuba
Source: U.S. Department of State

Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people. We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba.

It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.

See also: Announcement of Cuba Policy Changes (John Kerry, Secretary of State)
See also: Briefing on Changes in U.S. Policy Toward Cuba (Roberta S. Jacobson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs)

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Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes

December 18, 2014 Comments off

Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes
Source: White House

Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.

In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.

Cuba’s Economic Change in Comparative Perspective

December 4, 2014 Comments off

Cuba’s Economic Change in Comparative Perspective
Source: Brookings Institution

The Cuban economy has been mired in stagnation for more than two decades, with declining living standards, an outdated productive apparatus and a balance of payments under severe strain. Frustrated by the lack of promising opportunities, many of the best educated youth are exiting the island. In response to these accumulated challenges, the Cuban government has initiated a process of gradual but increasingly comprehensive economic reforms that eventually may resemble a form of mixed market socialism open to the international economy.

The six papers authored by Cuban and international economists in Cuba’s Economic Change in Comparative Perspective explore the roots of the economic crisis from Soviet-era central planning decades earlier, assess reforms undertaken by President Raúl Castro, analyze the challenges to change and recommend steps Cuba and the international community can take to overcome the crisis. Given that its often isolated reforms have so far created further distortions and failed to produce expected outcomes, the Cuban government should recognize the interrelated nature of economic variables as part of these key policy proposals and should present a clear strategic development model. More transparent goals and consistent implementation would improve the coherency of policymaking and help mitigate public anxieties about the future.

Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region

November 18, 2014 Comments off

Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region
Source: Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project

Latin America is home to more than 425 million Catholics – nearly 40% of the world’s total Catholic population – and the Roman Catholic Church now has a Latin American pope for the first time in its history. Yet identification with Catholicism has declined throughout the region, according to a major new Pew Research Center survey that examines religious affiliations, beliefs and practices in 18 countries and one U.S. territory (Puerto Rico) across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Historical data suggest that for most of the 20th century, from 1900 through the 1960s, at least 90% of Latin America’s population was Catholic (See History of Religious Change). Today, the Pew Research survey shows, 69% of adults across the region identify as Catholic. In nearly every country surveyed, the Catholic Church has experienced net losses from religious switching, as many Latin Americans have joined evangelical Protestant churches or rejected organized religion altogether. For example, roughly one-in-four Nicaraguans, one-in-five Brazilians and one-in-seven Venezuelans are former Catholics.

How Much Will Health Coverage Cost? Future Health Spending Scenarios in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico

November 17, 2014 Comments off

How Much Will Health Coverage Cost? Future Health Spending Scenarios in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico
Source: Center for Global Development

As Latin American countries seek to expand the coverage and benefits provided by their health systems under a global drive for universal health coverage (UHC), decisions taken today – whether by government or individuals – will have an impact tomorrow on public spending requirements. To understand the implications of these decisions and define needed policy reforms, this paper calculates long-term projections for public spending on health in three countries, analyzing different scenarios related to population, risk factors, labor market participation, and technological growth. In addition, the paper simulates the effects of different policy options and their potential knock-on effects on health expenditure.

Without reforms aimed at expanding policies and programs to prevent disease and enhancing the efficiency of health systems, we find that health spending will likely grow considerably in the not-distant future. These projected increases in health spending may not be a critical situation if revenues and productivity of other areas of the economy maintain their historical trends. However, if revenues do not continue to grow, keeping the share of GDP spent on health constant despite growing demand will certainly affect the quality of and access to health services.

Long-term fiscal projections are an essential component of planning for sustainable expansions of health coverage in Latin America.

New Comparative Law Report — Approval of Medical Devices

November 14, 2014 Comments off

Approval of Medical Devices (PDF)
Source: Law Library of Congress

This report describes the approval process for medical devices in the European Union and fifteen countries, and also indicates whether or not an expedited approval procedure is available. Many of the countries reference EU law, including France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Israel more readily approves devices with a CE mark (indicating approval in the EU) or an indication that they are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In many nations, particularly those influenced by the EU, part of the review process is conducted not by the government but by private, independent organizations called “notified bodies.” These organizations are designated by EU Member States.

In most of the countries in the survey, medical devices are categorized based on the risks associated with their use, and the approval process varies by category. For example, in the United Kingdom, manufacturers of low-risk devices may register with the government agency and simply declare that the devices meet the requirements to be approved. Devices classed as higher risk must undergo more detailed review, by a notified body.

On the question of an expedited approval process, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Spain, and Switzerland permit some sort of rapid review in particular cases, often when a device is required for an individual patient and no substitute is available. Mexico has provided for more rapid approval of devices if they have already been approved in either Canada or the United States. No such procedure exists at present in Brazil, France, Israel, the Russian Federation, or the United Kingdom. The Russian Federation did have a rapid approval system in place prior to August 2014. Germany provides for temporary approval of devices in limited circumstances. South Africa is now considering draft legislation that would include expedited procedures in specified situations.

Economic and competiveness gains from the adoption of best practices in intermodal maritime and road transport in the Americas

November 5, 2014 Comments off

Economic and competiveness gains from the adoption of best practices in intermodal maritime and road transport in the Americas
Source: Oxford Economics

Broad-based preliminary estimates suggest implementation of TIR could boost exports in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico by $1-$5 billion per annum, depending on the country, for a total of $9 billion per annum for all three countries. This report, produced by Oxford Economics, explores the maritime and road transport systems in international transport, focusing on trade facilitation and the potential for improvements in trade systems in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico with implementation of the TIR system, as well as potential challenges.

Free registration required.

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