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Launch of the new portal of the Network of Digital and Collaborative Ports
Launch of the new portal of the Network of Digital  and Collaborative Ports
Created in 2014, the Network of Digital and Collaborative Ports is making progress thanks to the non-refundable technical cooperation agreement between CAF-development bank of Latin America through its CAF-LOGRA Programme, and the Permanent Secretariat of SELA; by which it has been possible to create a Network linking twenty-eight port systems in thirteen Member States[1]. The core strategy of the programme has been to promote and contribute to the creation of support networks both at the country and regional levels through a new system of inter-agency collaboration and specialized technical cooperation that promotes the strengthening of public policies aimed at the port sector, as well as the implementation of technical recommendations at the local level in each port system. This is aimed at increasing the competitiveness and sustainability of the port logistics chain, by modernizing ports as its main mechanism. Since 2017, the Network established its own governance with its collaborating members that has enabled the development of a work agenda in the scientific-technological, management and sustainability areas of port logistics communities and in the design of public transport and trade policies for the development ports and their logistics. Following this breakthrough, a renewed image of the Network is foreseen in 2020 with the launch of the new portal (Web site and extranet), as part of the actions to promote port digitization in the region. In 2021, this programme is expected to continue to be strengthened with the incorporation of new tools and training workshops on technological and information improvements that will also enable to increase the usefulness of the specialized portal for the members of the Network and the general public. In this vein, and for the sake of digital transformation, the new Web site and extranet will increasingly improve the administrative processes of port communities in the region, expand communications among its members, and stimulate the search for integration solutions that enhance logistics chains in the future; which is particularly important amid the emergency situation posed by the adverse scenario due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   [1] Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.

October 08, 2020

Impacts of fisheries subsidies: Implications for Latin America and the Caribbean
Impacts of fisheries subsidies: Implications for Latin America  and the Caribbean
The treatment of fisheries subsidies is a major issue for international trade, the negotiations of which are expected to conclude a regulatory agreement that determines a disciplinary, efficient and sustainable regulatory policy. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the body responsible for conducting this debate, bearing in mind that discussions are primarily focused on achieving the eradication of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing). The elimination of fisheries subsidies involves resolving key aspects of species preservation, and therefore debates must clarify core and technical aspects of overcapacity, overfishing and overexploitation and analyse the scope of the financing schemes of the fishing industry, while also considering differentiated treatment for developing and least developed countries. The multilateral nature of these negotiations and the debate on the criteria for the applicability of rules for subsidies is one of the biggest and major challenges of WTO members, including those in Latin America and the Caribbean, given the relevance of the fisheries sector in the economies of the region. The issue has been discussed since 2001 in view of the mandate emanating from the Doha Ministerial Conference, but the urgency of concluding negotiations arose following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, with one of the specific goals for the preservation of maritime life establishes the elimination of fisheries subsidies. The deadline for reaching the agreement is set for the year 2020.

September 23, 2020

¿A new lost decade for Latin America and the Caribbean?: regional challenges
¿A new lost decade for Latin America and the Caribbean?: regional challenges
During the period 1960-1980 Latin America and the Caribbean experienced a positive economic performance that positioned the region as a benchmark for growth and destination of foreign capital. Until 1981, low interest rates, favourable terms of trade and generous international lending created a climate of abundance and optimism. However, from 1982 on, interest rate hikes and imbalances in the trade balance triggered a crisis that lasted until the early 1990s. During this time, the debt burden became unsustainable, the level of productive activity plummeted, and real wages contracted because of widespread inflationary processes. All this led to an unprecedented stagnation of output per capita and a reversal of the economic and social indicators known in literature as “the lost decade of Latin America and the Caribbean”. This crisis meant not only strong instability, but also a long period of adjustments and reforms focused on laying the foundations for sustainable economic growth. Fundamentally, the measures focused on reducing government spending to consolidate public finances, facilitate the return of capital, and initiate a marked process of trade opening that would drive insertion into international economic circuits. This last policy area would not only improve the trade balance and expand target markets, but also deepen the process of structural change to increase the levels of regional productivity and competitiveness. However, there was little progress and at present, in Latin America and the Caribbean, many of these challenges are still pending tasks within a global context that is continually undergoing profound transformations. Proof of this is the fragility of the economic performance evidenced by the fall in commodity prices in 2014 and the region’s lack of capabilities to recover leveraged in alternative productive activities. Faced with this, discussions for the design and implementation of policies that paved the way for the region towards a path of more growth revived, putting at the centre of reforms the needs for technological innovation and productive diversification to scale up at the links of global supply chains. However, the results of these efforts have not been as expected. In 2019, economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean averaged just 0.6% because of the low levels of productivity, international trade tensions, falling commodity prices and low export complexity. Amid this challenging context, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean face the worst economic crisis since statistical records of national accounts began in the 1950s. Estimates of major international organizations have predicted that by 2020 the regional economy will fall by -9.4% and 15% of formal jobs will be lost. Due to this profound fall in activity, alarms have already been raised about the emergence of a “new lost decade for Latin America and the Caribbean” between 2015 and 2025, bringing with it serious economic and social consequences. However, unlike the debt crisis of the 1980s, the affectation of all countries on the planet in the current circumstances will result in the generation of significant changes in international economic dynamics, requiring a process of reflection by the countries of the region in order to rethink their role as global players. In particular, the changes in the dynamics of international trade and value chains could provide opportunities for further internationalization and rethink regional integration. The difficulties of these turbulent times can become catalysts for consensus, to undertake an agenda of actions that will definitely allow us to overcome of pre-existing and pandemic challenges.

August 27, 2020

The post-pandemic economic crisis in the region: GDP and remittances
The post-pandemic economic crisis in the region: GDP and remittances
In the global context, where the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a major crisis affecting the most vulnerable sectors of society, its impact on family remittances and effects is a major issue for discussion and analysis. Family remittances contribute to the economic growth and social development of recipient countries. In the region, they represent a high percentage of their gross domestic product and a poverty alleviation mechanism. In the past year, remittance revenues in Latin America and the Caribbean exceeded US$ 93 billion, and therefore countries that rely on remittance inflows are especially vulnerable to the consequences of the crisis caused by COVID-19. The World Bank forecasts a 20% decrease in remittances in 2020, which will have a significant impact on the living conditions of millions of people around the world, and especially in the Latin American and Caribbean region. According to ECLAC, the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to the biggest contraction in economic activity in the region's history. Their second Special Report on COVID-19 "Measuring the impact of COVID-19 with a view to reactivation” states that remittance flows to Latin America and the Caribbean could contract by 10% to 15% in 2020, and could take 4 to 8 years to return to the levels seen in 2019. In several countries in the region, these flows make a very significant contribution to economic activity: In Haiti, they accounted for more than 30% of GDP; in El Salvador and Honduras, they contributed around 20%, and in Jamaica, Guatemala and Nicaragua, over 10%. Between 80% and 90% of remittances are used to meet basic needs of the recipient households (food, health and housing). The contraction will therefore have a major impact on consumption and poverty. In view of this fact, it is necessary to focus the discussion on the actions to be taken to mitigate these effects and on the possibility that the flow of remittances could continue during and after the pandemic. It should also be noted that migration is made up of a diverse human group, which includes professionals, technicians, entrepreneurs, workers in various fields, who contribute almost 10% of GDP in recipient countries. Thus, the integration of migrants into destination countries in a safe, orderly and regular manner could provide between US$800 billion and US$1 trillion to the global economy each year. For example, the call for action led by Switzerland and the United Kingdom and supported by UNDP, the United Nations Capital Development Fund and other organizations, entitled “Remittances in Crisis: How to Keep Them Flowing”, proposes a series of actions to address the issue of post-pandemic remittances. In this context, the Permanent Secretariat of SELA has considered it appropriate to conduct a series of webinars with the aim of addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on migration, the socio-economic implications for the region and how to face the future.

August 14, 2020

Education in times of a pandemic: Impact of Covid-19 on education systems in Latin America and the Caribbean
Education in times of a pandemic: Impact of Covid-19 on education systems in Latin America and the Caribbean
Education has been one of the most affected sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UNESCO, there are more than 1 billion students affected globally, which accounts for more than 60% of the student population and more than 15% of the world’s population. In addition, there are several obstacles that this organization points to, such as: deficiencies in remote learning, the cost of the digital gap (understood as the disparity in access to technology or Internet), and the role that schools play in the health and well-being of students. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the regions where there is a great disparity in technology and poor readiness as regards digital infrastructure, deficiencies in remote learning, the costs of the digital divide, as well as the important role that schools play in students’ health and well-being. The IDB Education Division, through the Information Systems and Educational Management Project (SIGED), has worked for more than two years with the Latin American and Caribbean countries. SIGED aims to identify how day-to-day educational management processes are carried out and to determine the level of automation and digital use, in order to improve the efficiency of educational management. Among the basic digital conditions established by the project are the availability of connectivity in schools, digital platforms, virtual tutoring, digital resource packages and a central repository of digital contents. A survey conducted by SIGED revealed that most countries in the region do not have those minimum digital conditions, and therefore they are not in a position to provide online education to all students. The project determined that Uruguay is the only country in the entire region that has the appropriate digital conditions. In addition, experts are concerned that students are not learning at the same level as face-to-face classes and that there is a considerable delay in the knowledge acquired, with some of them estimating that such delay reaches even one year. Finally, many families have been affected because schools represented an important source of food, and families have also been affected because many parents do not have the knowledge or psychopedagogical tools to support their children in virtual academic environments. In order to understand the current educational reality of the region and the strategies that are being adopted by certain countries, a proposal has been made to carry out this Webinar so as to gain knowledge about the main challenges, characteristics of the sector and opportunities of the educational sector following the pandemic generated by COVID-19, and which also serves for the exchange of ideas on the best practices adopted by the region.

August 06, 2020

Organizational resilience for SMEs in times of pandemic: Practical recommendations for the protection of enterprises
Organizational resilience for SMEs in times of pandemic: Practical recommendations for the protection of enterprises
As stated by the Andean Development Corporation (CAF): “The measures to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have placed Latin American SMEs in a delicate situation. These companies account for more than 99% of the region’s business fabric and generate about 30% of its GDP, therefore it is essential to protect them.” For its part, the OECD notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only reduced the production capacity of enterprises, but also that the measures to contain the disease through blockades and quarantines have disrupted supply chains, which in some cases means shortages of spare parts and intermediate goods. Consumers are experiencing a loss of income and fear of contagion, which in turn reduces their willingness to spend and consume. Some surveys on SMEs show that more than half of them have already faced severe losses in income. The negative effects of COVID-19 will continue to impact businesses for the next 12 to 16 months, and many small and medium-sized entrepreneurs have closed temporarily and fear they will not be able to reopen. Most SMEs are suffering significant impacts from the pandemic. Many small and medium-sized entrepreneurs are afraid about the viability of their business for the next year. The most affected sectors by the crisis are: construction, automotive, wholesale and retail trade, air transport, accommodation and food services, real estate, professional services and other personal services. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken us all by surprise. Governments, entrepreneurs, and society as a whole must face the challenges that this entails. We are already beginning to perceive the devastating power of the pandemic and the profound damage and various impacts it is causing on the economy and society. Recently, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) submitted its report on the “Economic and Social Effects of COVID-19 for Latin America and the Caribbean”, which warns us about the special and unprecedented situation facing the region from a weaker position than that of the rest of the world, in which its economies could suffer a contraction between 3% and 4% or even more serious, depending on the decisions taken by the governments at the national and regional levels. Governments in the region have immediately responded and measures to contain contagion have progressively been adopted by most countries. In early March, the Permanent Secretariat drafted the document “COVID-19: Summary of the main measures, actions and policies implemented by SELA Member States”, which is updated every fortnight and is published on its Website. Over the last few weeks, we have highlighted the complexity of sanitary measures, and of the economic, fiscal, commercial, educational and social measures, as well as the extension and variability of quarantine, confinement and social distancing policies, which affect society and particularly the productive sector, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises. The Permanent Secretariat of SELA has been working on the issue of creating Public-Private Partnerships for Disaster Risk Reduction since 2010; and one of its priorities is precisely “Business Continuity”, so as to help SMEs and SMES to prepare themselves to face disaster situations, considering that they make up to 90% of the business fabric in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this context, the Permanent Secretariat of SELA has deemed it appropriate to start a Webinar cycle with the purpose of providing practical tools so that entrepreneurs, SMEs and MSMEs can protect themselves against these changing scenarios, which demand capacity for rapid action, reaction and adaptation.

July 30, 2020