By Luis Alberto Sierra G.
PANAMA CITY, April 9 (Xinhua) -- Strategic economic reforms in Latin America could help improve the region's economic prospects, according to a United Nations agency.
The latest economic growth forecast by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) shows regional growth this year will be affected by a significant slowdown, and likely register barely 1 percent expansion on average.
That trend, however, could be turned around by making the right economic adjustments, ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Barcena, who is in Panama City, Panama, for the upcoming Summit of the Americas, told Xinhua in an interview.
First and foremost the region must tackle inequality, which can disrupt stable democracies. Several ways to achieve that goal would be to improve access to education, boost wages and put in place mechanisms to redistribute wealth, she said.
Labor conditions and security should be improved by formalizing the region's large informal work force and reducing the size of the underground economy.
Barcena called for progressive tax reforms, including an increase in income tax, and more effective measures to combat tax evasion and exemptions, privileges that many regional companies have long enjoyed and no longer need.
Latin America, she said, should reduce its dependence on raw material exports by investing in training and innovation to boost production. The region has so far failed to tap the benefits of more technology-driven economies.
A hemispheric initiative to increase connectivity and broadband access, for example, would be a boon to countries, said Barcena.
Latin America "could be part of the solution to many global problems, more than the problem," said Barcena.