Despite predictions of the worst, Latin America has managed to
survive the aftershocks sent by the Asian Crisis. With a regional
GDP of 81.6 billion, the Americas are economically stable. But do
these numbers really translate stability?
Last year, its member country employment rates at a high with
almost everyone employed, with minimum inflation on its respective
currencies. Yet 37% of the population in the region is living below
the poverty line, while 16% in extreme poverty. With the cities
littered with street children, a crime rate of nearly 69% and an
infant mortality rate of 20 per 1,000, one can almost see the
living conditions. Why is that?
It depends on how one defines poverty. Economic-wise, the Latin
Americas are faring much better than it's Asian counterparts.
Export, which the countries rely heavily on, never goes lower than
60%, depending on the size of the country. Multi-national companies
are opening instead of leaving.
But these MNCs are mostly foreign owned, and take up the bulk of
businesses in the region. A virtual wonderland for investors, Latin
America offers cheap labor, minimal government interference, and
almost no environmental laws. Each member country also faces its
swelling IMF debt, with Mexico, who borrows after every
presidential term, highest. With no labor and environmental
policies, and a government too busy paying up debts to impose
social reforms, it is vulnerable to exploitation.
Simply enforcing new rules and passing new laws is not the
answer. If the government decides to hike up the minimum wage,
upgrade the working conditions, and impose new environmental laws,
these MNCs will immediately pack up and move to a place where
business is cheaper. Without these companies, the region will
collapse, with neither a strong industrial or agricultural base to
fall back on.
The problems started when the Latin Americas dictators fell and
the region gradually lapsed to democratic rule. The transition was
not an easy one to make. Some countries, after years of being
colonized, fell into mismanagement by the next government, others
found their treasuries left almost penniless, cleaned out by the
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