Ex-President of Andean Parliament Points to Technology to Reduce Poverty

By Dialogo
August 17, 2009

Ivonne A-Baki, former president of the Andean Parliament and a candidate to be director-general of UNESCO, pointed to education, public health, and new technologies as keys to reducing poverty in the region and in the rest of Latin America. “Latin America is talking to itself in new ways,” A-Baki said at a forum organized in Washington by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency. “New and previously ignored groups are increasingly participating in the social dialogue and are using new technologies to do so,” the former Ecuadorean ambassador to the United States added. “Today, the poor have a louder voice because of new communication technologies and because they are willing to use them. Indigenous populations, civil society, and small businesses are using these technologies in a way to make sure that information flows to those who need it most.” Another speaker at the forum, Kevin Healy of the Inter-American Foundation, expressed the opinion that the impact of new technologies has nonetheless been limited by “the low levels of education” from which the majority of the continent suffers. A-Baki criticized the “oversimplification” of poverty “by many in the policy community” and highlighted the need to include new areas in the anti-poverty agenda, such as gender discrimination and environmental deterioration. For Darius Mans, chief executive officer of the MCC, it is also necessary “to reduce corruption and create space for entrepreneurial projects.” Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas (COA) affirmed that Latin American economies “based on raw materials” still have “many lessons to learn” from countries like China, which “in two years has managed to reduce the number of poor persons by 250 million,” a figure equal to the entire population of the Mercosur countries. According to Farnsworth, the Chinese “national obsession with growth” can teach the continent to “diversify, move beyond raw materials,” and “promote formal-sector employment.” Farnsworth, who expressed his conviction that the quickest route to ending poverty is free trade, urged countries to “guarantee that capital stays in national banks, in order to encourage private investment.” Along these lines, he pointed to Chile as an example of a country that has reduced poverty through economic growth and free trade and to Haiti as the “opposite extreme” in the hemisphere.
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