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Archive for the ‘Latin America and the Caribbean’ Category

CRS — Latin America and the Caribbean: Fact Sheet on Leaders and Elections (updated)

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Latin America and the Caribbean: Fact Sheet on Leaders and Elections (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides the results of recent elections in Latin America and the Caribbean. Below are three tables organized by region, including the date of each country’s independence, the name of the newly elected president or prime minister, and the projected date of the next election. Information in this report was gathered from numerous sources, including the U.S. State Department, the CIA’s Open Source, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), and other news sources.

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Brazil — Bank Ownership, Lending, and Local Economic Performance During the 2008-2010 Financial Crisis

April 3, 2014 Comments off

Bank Ownership, Lending, and Local Economic Performance During the 2008-2010 Financial Crisis
Source: Federal Reserve Board

While the finance literature often equates government banks with political capture and capital misallocation, these banks can help mitigate financial shocks. This paper examines the role of Brazil’s government banks in preventing a recession during the 2008-2010 financial crisis. Government banks in Brazil provided more credit, which offset declines in lending by private banks. Areas in Brazil with a high share of government banks experienced increases in lending, production, and employment during the crisis compared to areas with a low share of these banks. We find no evidence that lending was politically targeted or that it caused productivity to decline in the short-run.

WEGrow — Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean

March 28, 2014 Comments off

WEGrow — Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean
Source: Multilateral Investment Fund
From press release

The new study “WEGrow: Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean,” finds that these entrepreneurs are opportunity-driven rather than necessity-driven, and that they mention economic independence, passion and creating jobs as their main reasons for launching their business ventures. According to the study, 85% of high-growth women entrepreneurs have the ambition to keep growing their business. These high-growth businesses belong to traditional or non-mature sectors such as food and beverages and services, which tend to have lower rates of potential growth than sectors like software and Internet, which are preferred by high-growth men entrepreneurs.

AU — The G20: a quick guide

March 26, 2014 Comments off

The G20: a quick guide
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This is a quick guide to basic information about the G20, as well as links to useful summary resources. The G20 background section includes the G20’s history, its members, the hosting system and G20 meeting processes, as well as a brief discussion of selected policy areas. Material on Australia and the G20 includes Australia’s involvement in the G20, Australia’s G20 goals for 2014 and speeches and press releases on the G20. A short list of links provides access to more resources on the G20.

Social Gains in the Balance : A Fiscal Policy Challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean

March 11, 2014 Comments off

Social Gains in the Balance : A Fiscal Policy Challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean
Source: World Bank

In 2012, the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region continued its successful drive to reduce poverty and build the middle class. The proportion of the region’s 600 million people living in extreme poverty, defined in the region as life on less than $2.50 a day, was cut in half between 2003 and 2012 to 12.3 percent. Reflecting the upward mobility out of poverty, households vulnerable to falling back into poverty became the largest group in LAC in 2005, and represent almost 38 percent of the population. However, in the last two years, the share of vulnerable households has started to decline. The middle class, currently 34.3 percent of the population, is growing rapidly and is projected to replace the vulnerable as the largest economic group in LAC by 2016. The Southern Cone region (including Brazil) continued to be the most dynamic region and the main driver of poverty reduction in LAC, while poverty in Central America and Mexico proved more stubborn. About 68 percent of poverty reduction between 2003 and 2012 was driven by economic growth, with the remaining 32 percent arising from decline in inequality. Overall, equality of access to basic childhood goods and services has improved in recent years. Yet access can be further improved, and serious issues remain concerning the quality of those goods and services, particularly in education and housing infrastructure. Moreover, access increases with parental education and income or assets, reflecting low intergenerational mobility in many countries in the region. As with poverty reduction, most of the progress in equality of access since 2000 has come in the Southern Cone and the Andean regions, while many of Central America’s countries managed only small improvements. There are also severe differences at the subnational level and between urban and rural areas, highlighting the need to strengthen the capacity of local governments to deliver high quality basic services to all their citizens.

CRS — Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations

March 10, 2014 Comments off

Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

While historically the United States has had close relations with Venezuela, a major oil supplier, friction in bilateral relations rose over the past decade under the leftist populist government of President Hugo Chávez, who died in March 2013 after battling cancer for almost two years. First elected in 1998, Chávez had won reelection to another six-year term in October 2012, capturing about 55% of the vote compared to 44% for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. After Chávez’s death, Venezuela held presidential elections in April 2013 in which acting President Nicolás Maduro, who had been serving as Chávez’s vice president, received 50.61% of the vote, compared to 49.12% for Capriles (a margin of 1.49%). In both of those presidential elections, the incumbent candidate benefited from the use of state resources and media for his campaign. Venezuela’s December 2013 municipal elections demonstrated mixed results for the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD).

The Maduro government faces significant challenges, including deteriorating economic conditions (with high inflation and shortages of consumer goods) and high rates of crime and violence. In February 2014, growing street protests erupted into violence with protestors attacked by Venezuelan security forces and militant pro-government civilian groups. A major opposition figure, Leopoldo López, was arrested, and by month’s end, at least 17 people had been killed in the violence.

CRS — Gangs in Central America (updated)

March 4, 2014 Comments off

Gangs in Central America (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress has maintained an interest in the effects of gang violence in Central America, and on the expanding activities of transnational gangs with ties to that region operating in the United States. Since FY2008, Congress has appropriated significant amounts of funding for anti-gang efforts in Central America, as well as domestic anti-gang programs. This report focuses primarily on U.S.- funded international anti-gang efforts.

Global Pensions Asset Study – 2014

February 27, 2014 Comments off

Global Pensions Asset Study – 2014
Source: Towers Watson

This is a study of the 13 largest pension markets in the world and accounts for more than 85% of global pension assets. The countries included are Australia, Canada, Brazil, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK and the US. The study also analyses seven countries in greater depth by excluding the six smallest markets (Brazil, France, Germany, Ireland, Hong Kong and South Africa).

The analysis includes:

  • Asset size, including growth statistics, comparison of asset size with GDP and liabilities
  • Asset allocation
  • Defined benefit and defined contribution share of pension assets
  • Public and private sector share of pension assets.

Women in Science and Technology: What Does the Literature Say?

February 27, 2014 Comments off

Women in Science and Technology: What Does the Literature Say?
Source: Inter-American Development Bank

Skill gaps are a key constraint to innovation, hindering productivity growth and economic development. In particular, shortages in the supply of trained professionals in disciplines related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) may weaken the innovation potential of a society. A wide gender gap has persisted over the years at all levels of STEM disciplines throughout the world. Although the participation of women in higher education has increased, they are still underrepresented. Latin America is no exception. The untapped potential of fully trained and credentialed women represents an important lost opportunity not only for women themselves but also for society as a whole. Although there is growing recognition of the importance of the issue in developing countries, Latin America faces a lack of information that prevents researchers from deepening the understanding of this phenomenon and policymakers from designing effective interventions. This note aims to contribute to the academic and policy debate in the region by reviewing the main factors put forward in the literature to explain gender inequalities in recruitment, retention, and promotion in STEM disciplines and by providing evidence of the scope and results of policies directed to obtain a better gender balance in the sector.

Cuba’s New Real Estate Market

February 27, 2014 Comments off

Cuba’s New Real Estate Market
Source: Brookings Institution

In November 2011, the Cuban government legalized residential real estate transactions as part of its ongoing economic reform process. Homes are no longer just assets to be passed on to heirs but can be made liquid, expanding economic freedom for the 84 percent of Cubans who own their own homes.

In “Cuba’s New Real Estate Market,” Phil Peters relies on interviews with market participants and government officials to examine the development of the nascent real estate market, outline its complex processes, and discuss the role of foreign nationals. He argues that the reform helps to address a critical housing shortage, advances private property rights, and repeals the requirement that emigrants forfeit their property to the government upon leaving the island.

CRS — U.S. – Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

U.S. – Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement entered into force on May 15, 2012. It is a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia, which will eventually eliminate tariffs and other barriers in bilateral trade in goods and services. On October 3, 2011, President Barack Obama submitted draft legislation (H.R. 3078/S. 1641) to both houses of Congress to implement the agreement. On October 12, 2011, the House passed H.R. 3078 (262-167) and sent it to the Senate. The Senate passed the implementing legislation (66-33) on the same day. The agreement was signed by both countries almost five years earlier, on November 22, 2006. The Colombian Congress approved it in June 2007 and again in October 2007, after it was modified to include new provisions agreed to in the May 10, 2007, bipartisan understanding between congressional leadership and President George W. Bush.

CRS — Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues for the 113th Congress (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues for the 113th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Geographic proximity has ensured strong linkages between the United States and the Latin American and Caribbean region, with diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political, and security concerns. U.S. policy toward the region under the Obama Administration has focused on four priorities: promoting economic and social opportunity; ensuring citizen security; strengthening effective democratic institutions; and securing a clean energy future. There has been substantial continuity in U.S. policy toward the region under the Obama Administration, which has pursued some of the same basic policy approaches as the Bush Administration. Nevertheless, the Obama Administration has made several significant policy changes, including an overall emphasis on partnership and shared responsibility.

Statistical Signs of Social Influence on Suicides

February 24, 2014 Comments off

Statistical Signs of Social Influence on Suicides
Source: arXiv.org

Certain currents in sociology consider society as being composed of autonomous individuals with independent psychologies. Others, however, deem our actions as strongly influenced by the accepted standards of social behavior. The later view was central to the positivist conception of society when in 1887 \’Emile Durkheim published his monograph Suicide (Durkheim, 1897). By treating the suicide as a social fact, Durkheim envisaged that suicide rates should be determined by the connections (or the lack of them) between people and society. Under the same framework, Durkheim considered that crime is bound up with the fundamental conditions of all social life and serves a social function. In this sense, and regardless of its extremely deviant nature, crime events are somehow capable to release certain social tensions and so have a purging effect in society. The social effect on the occurrence of homicides has been previously substantiated (Bettencourt et al., 2007; Alves et al., 2013), and confirmed here, in terms of a superlinear scaling relation: by doubling the population of a Brazilian city results in an average increment of 135 % in the number of homicides, rather than the expected isometric increase of 100 %, as found, for example, for the mortality due to car crashes. Here we present statistical signs of the social influence on the suicide occurrence in cities. Differently from homicides (superlinear) and fatal events in car crashes (isometric), we find sublinear scaling behavior between the number of suicides and city population, with allometric power-law exponents, β=0.836±0.009 and 0.870±0.002, for all cities in Brazil and US, respectively. The fact that the frequency of suicides is disproportionately small for larger cities reveals a surprisingly beneficial aspect of living and interacting in larger and more complex social networks.

Panama: Detailed Assessment Report—FATF Recommendations for Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism

February 20, 2014 Comments off

Panama: Detailed Assessment Report—FATF Recommendations for Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism
Source: International Monetary Fund

Panama is vulnerable to money laundering (ML) from a number of sources including drug trafficking and other predicate crimes committed abroad such as fraud, financial and tax crimes. It is a country with an open, dollarized economy and, as a regional and international financial and corporate services center, offers a wide range of offshore financial and corporate services. It is also a transit point for drug trafficking from South American countries with some of the highest levels of production and trafficking of illegal drugs in the world. These factors put the country at high risk of being used for ML. Although the authorities have not conducted a risk assessment, they attribute the largest sources of ML to drug trafficking and other predicate crimes committed abroad. No information or estimates were provided on the extent of domestic and foreign predicate crimes and the amount of related ML in Panama. No terrorism financing (TF) cases have been detected so far.

CRS — The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Negotiations and Issues for Congress (updated)

February 19, 2014 Comments off

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Negotiations and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. U.S. negotiators and others describe and envision the TPP as a “comprehensive and high-standard” FTA that aims to liberalize trade in nearly all goods and services and include commitments beyond those currently established in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The broad outline of an agreement was announced on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial in November 2011, in Honolulu, HI. If concluded as envisioned, the TPP potentially could eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and investment among the parties and could serve as a template for a future trade pact among APEC members and potentially other countries. Congress has a direct interest in the negotiations, both through influencing U.S. negotiating positions with the executive branch, and by passing legislation to implement any resulting agreement.

CRS — Status of the WTO Brazil-U.S. Cotton Case

February 11, 2014 Comments off

Status of the WTO Brazil-U.S. Cotton Case (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Library)

The so-called “Brazil cotton case” is a long-running World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement case (DS267) initiated by Brazil—a major cotton export competitor—in 2002 against specific provisions of the U.S. cotton program. In September 2004, a WTO dispute settlement panel ruled that (1) certain U.S. agricultural support payments for cotton distorted international agricultural markets and should be either withdrawn or modified to end the market distortions; and (2) U.S. Step-2 payments and agricultural export credit guarantees for cotton and other unscheduled commodities were prohibited under WTO rules and should be withdrawn.

CRS — Cuba: U.S. Policy and Issues for the 113th Congress

February 11, 2014 Comments off

Cuba: U.S. Policy and Issues for the 113th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Cuba remains a one-party communist state with a poor record on human rights. The country’s
political succession in 2006 from the long-ruling Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl was
characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. In February 2013, Castro was reappointed to a
second five-year term as president (until 2018, when he would be 86 years old), and selected 52-
year old former Education Minister Miguel Díaz-Canel as his First Vice President, making him
the official successor in the event that Castro cannot serve out his term. Raúl Castro has
implemented a number of gradual economic policy changes over the past several years, including
an expansion of self-employment. A party congress held in April 2011 laid out numerous
economic goals that, if implemented, could significantly alter Cuba’s state-dominated economic
model. Few observers, however, expect the government to ease its tight control over the political
system. While the government reduced the number of political prisoners in 2010-2011, the
number increased in 2012; moreover, short-term detentions and harassment have increased
significantly.

See also: Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances (PDF)

Liquid Fuels and Natural Gas in the Americas

January 31, 2014 Comments off

Liquid Fuels and Natural Gas in the Americas
Source: Energy Information Administration

This report examines the major energy trends and developments of the past decade in the Americas, focusing on liquid fuels and natural gas—particularly, reserves and resources, production, consumption, trade, and investment. The Americas, which include North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, account for a significant portion of global supply, demand, and trade of both liquid fuels and natural gas. Liquid fuels include all petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas liquids, biofuels, and liquids derived from other hydrocarbon sources.

Dividing the Pie in Brazil: Income Distribution, Social Policies and the New Middle Class

January 28, 2014 Comments off

Dividing the Pie in Brazil: Income Distribution, Social Policies and the New Middle Class
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Brazil has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty and inequality. This reduction is explained by strong growth but also by effective social policies. Besides growth, public services and cash transfers have played the biggest role, the latter notably through the successful “Bolsa Familia” programme. Among public services, improved access to education has played a major role, allowing more Brazilians to move into better-paid jobs. However, shortages in physical school infrastructure are limiting the hours of instruction that students receive. The high drop-out rate needs to be reduced through early interventions such as expanding early-childhood education, by reducing grade-repetition and through more tailored support for those at risk. The quality of teaching could also be raised through more in-service teacher training and stronger performance incentives for teachers. Performance of public services devoted to health and transports has been mixed. Public health services are widely available but suffer from underfunding and training places for medical staff need to be expanded. The public urban transport system suffers from a shortage of investment which is urgently needed to upgrade capacity. Regarding cash transfers, the success of “Bolsa Familia” and new programmes put in place under the umbrella of the “Brasil sem Miseria” programme is remarkable but transfer payments remain too heavily focused on pension benefits. Giving more priority to “Bolsa Familia” and “Brasil sem Miseria” while limiting the real growth of pension expenditures in the future would improve the effectiveness of social expenditures for reducing poverty and inequality.

Neighborhood Danger, Parental Monitoring, Harsh Parenting, and Child Aggression in Nine Countries

January 23, 2014 Comments off

Neighborhood Danger, Parental Monitoring, Harsh Parenting, and Child Aggression in Nine Countries (PDF)
Source: Societies

Exposure to neighborhood danger during childhood has negative effects that permeate multiple dimensions of childhood. The current study examined whether mothers’, fathers’, and children’s perceptions of neighborhood danger are related to child aggression, whether parental monitoring moderates this relation, and whether harsh parenting mediates this relation. Interviews were conducted with a sample of 1293 children (age M = 10.68, SD = 0.66; 51% girls) and their mothers (n = 1282) and fathers (n = 1075) in nine countries (China, Colombia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, the Philippines, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States). Perceptions of greater neighborhood danger were associated with more child aggression in all nine countries according to mothers’ and fathers’ reports and in five of the nine countries according to children’s reports. Parental monitoring did not moderate the relation between perception of neighborhood danger and child aggression. The mediating role of harsh parenting was inconsistent across countries and reporters. Implications for further research are discussed, and include examination of more specific aspects of parental monitoring as well as more objective measures of neighborhood danger.

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