The SI Committee on the Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment met in Buenos Aires on 9 November, continuing with its programme of examining regional dimensions of the world economy. On this occasion the Committee focused on Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular defining common social democratic strategies to advance growth and equal opportunities in the region and assessing the different processes of integration there.
The opening of the meeting included contributions on behalf of the Argentinian hosts, from former President of the Republic, Raúl Alfonsin, of the Radical Civic Union, UCR, and Clorinda Yelicic from the Socialist Party of Argentina, PS. From the Socialist International, the Committee Chair, Cristoph Zöpel, Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD, and the SI Secretary General, Luis Ayala, addressed the meeting.
Introductory contributions were presented by representatives from two specially invited regional organisations, the first by Oscar Cetrangolo from the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC, and the second by Raúl Alconada from the Organisation of American States, OAS.
The discussion on the main theme of the meeting highlighted the fact that Latin America is today an area of economic growth in the world economy while at the same time one of great economic disparities with a high level of inequality.
The region today presented a great challenge for progressive political forces to introduce and implement their programmes and values to change the face of the continent. In the very existence of this challenge could also be found the reason for the numerous electoral victories of SI members, now in government in increasing numbers throughout the region.
Among the tasks to be carried out by socialists, in the opinion of the participants at the meeting, were those of consolidating and deepening democracy, strengthening and improving institutions as well as providing equality of opportunity, overcoming the social deficits of democracy and fighting the lack of solidarity in globalisation, advancing the ethic of solidarity, citizen’s participation, and the modernisation of the economy and society.
The objectives of socialists in the region should be economic growth but with social advancement – in this sense the role of education is crucial – and the fight against poverty.
One of the challenges facing the region was how to sustain present economic growth and fiscal solvency resulting from current international conditions, and the development of social protection policies promoting social cohesion. In relation to the latter, participants insisted on the need for adequate systems of social security, pensions, health, and education as well as the need to strengthen the financing of public policies and overcome the weaknesses of the taxation system in policies for redistribution.
Another element which arose in the debates was the need to appreciate the varying aspects and particularities of each sub- region – Mexico, Central America, Brazil, the Andean region and the Southern cone – and the need for specific policies for each one of them.
The possibilities for the countries of the region to connect their production and consumer infrastructures continue to offer great potential for real integration, which still remains in the distance.
Participants at the meeting underlined the priority attached to advancing the agendas for integration to also give impetus to the participation of the region in the new ways in which the economy and politics are organised at global level.
Amongst the various conclusions of the debate to be included in the report to be presented to the XXIII Congress of the Socialist International, was the agreement of the Committee members to prepare a common proposal of percentages of the national budgets of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean that would be considered adequate to be invested in areas such as education, health, and in what would be an acceptable minimum wage, along with other similar proposals, to construct a shared point of reference as objectives of a sound social democratic policy for the whole region.