Professor argues that Latin América must—and can—leap into 21st century.

“The vast majority of the problems in Latin América are self-created,” said Jerry Haar, professor, Department of Management and International Business, and associate director, Knight Ridder Center for Excellence in Management in the College of Business Administration.

Jerry Haar
Jerry Haar

His latest articulation of that position appeared in an op-ed piece titled “Focus on Competitiveness, Not Just Trade,” in the Miami Herald on December 3, 2006, timed to coincide with the 30th Conference on the Caribbean Basin, held in Miami. The Caribbean-Central American Action (CCAA) ( sponsors the hemisphere-wide gathering of business people who zero in on policy issues in Central América and the Caribbean.

“Trade has often been perceived as a magic bullet, but it isn’t,” he said. “It’s but one tool in the arsenal of a country’s competitive assets. A country also needs to focus on several enduring internal issues, including institutions, infrastructure, and human capital.”

Op-ed piece admonishes and praises region’s efforts.

The article begins with a stark summary of the obstacles to free trade.

“For trade-dependent communities like South Florida and its hemispheric trading partners, the outlook for further liberalization of commerce appears bleak. The Doha Round of the World Trade Organization is stalled, the Free Trade Area of the Américas is comatose, congressional ratification of U.S. free-trade agreements with Perú and Colombia are unlikely, and renewal of the Trade Promotion Authority is highly doubtful,” Haar wrote.

He then takes a balanced look at the weaknesses and strengths with respect to what he argues are the more important underlying matters of institutions, infrastructure, and human capital.

“The very strengths can also expose weaknesses,” he said. “For example, some countries are very strong in terms of maternal and child health, which is great. However, that achievement means that there are more surviving hungry mouths and an aging population, which translates into a drain on social services.”

Forthcoming book will examine the issues in greater depth.

Can Latin América Compete?, co-written and co-edited by Haar and John Price, president of InfoAméricas, and due for publication in late 2007, offers a number of observations about where the region has been, where it’s going, what it needs to do, and what its options are.

“The 21st century is the ‘Century of China’” Haar said. “Its emergence in the global economy should be a wake-up call for Latin América to do what’s necessary to establish its footing in the 21st century.”

As he put it in the op-ed piece, “Instead of blaming its long-standing problems on China, protectionist policies in industrial countries, and insufficient foreign aid, Latin América should focus on internal transformation of institutions, infrastructure and human capital—changes that will produce wider impacts and greater benefits in strengthening competitiveness and improving the daily lives of ordinary citizens.”

College has strong presence at the CCAA conference.

At the CCAA conference itself, held December 4-6, 2006, Haar spoke on the “Competitiveness Panel.” Carmen Algeciras (MIB ’03, BA ’01), director, USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program, was a panelist in the “Agribusiness Roundtable,” and Ed Glab, director, Knight Ridder Center for Excellence in Management, co-chaired a panel titled “Regional Energy Security,” which focused on alternative transportation fuels, particularly ethanol.

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