Economic Outlook

Brisker growth ahead in Latin America, Caribbean

The Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean projects regional economic growth in 2013 will surpass this year’s levels.

mwhitefield@MiamiHerald.comDecember 11, 2012 

Despite global economic uncertainties, Latin American and Caribbean economies are expected to show an uptick in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Next year, regional economies will grow by an estimated 3.8 percent, compared to 3.1 percent — the figure projected for 2012, said Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of ECLAC, which is based in Santiago, Chile.

Despite the more positive outlook, the report said the region’s economic performance will still depend on possible recession in Europe, the strength of economic growth in China, the impact of modest growth in the United States and other world economic trends.

Among the Latin American countries projected to have growth rates of four percent or higher are: Brazil (4 percent), Bolivia (5 percent), Chile (4.8 percent), Colombia (4.5 percent), Nicaragua (4.5 percent), Panama (7.5 percent), Paraguay (8.5 percent), Peru (6 percent), and Uruguay (4 percent).

“[Next year] may not be the great year that we all want but it will be a good year for Colombia,’’ said Alvaro Moreno, a researcher at Colombia’s Private Competiveness Council. Revaluing the Colombian peso has proved difficult, he said, and trade in Colombia’s non-traditional exports also has been declining but oil and mining exports will contribute to growth.

Buoyant consumption levels in a number of regional economies as well as commodity prices that aren’t expected to fall significantly despite global uncertainly are contributing to regional growth.

But Bárcena warned: “The challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean is to increase and stabilize investment growth, and not to depend exclusively on consumption as a means to drive structural change with equality, to incorporate technical progress and deliver sustainable growth.’’

Among other large economies in Latin America, Mexico is expected to grow by 3.5 percent; Argentina, 3.9 percent, and Venezuela, 2 percent. The Cuban economy, with growth forecast at 3.5 percent in 2013, is expected to do slightly better than it did in 2012.

Combined Argentina and Brazil — South Florida’s most important trading partner — account for about 41.5 percent of regional gross domestic product.

While the Argentine economy is expected to improve on a 2012 growth rate of 2.2 percent, some analysts aren’t very bullish on its prospects. “Argentina has been gradually isolating itself over a number of years,’’ said Jonathan Heath, chief economist at Health & Associates in Mexico City.

“Argentina has been faking its inflation rate for a number of years and everyone knows that,’’ he said during a recent conference in Miami on Latin America’s 2013 economic forecast.

Tiny, land-locked Paraguay is expected to have the strongest economic growth in South America at 8.5 percent in 2013 but it is coming off a 1.8 percent contraction in 2012.

The news is not as encouraging in the Caribbean where growth is expected to average 2 percent next year but that is still better than this year’s projected growth rate of 1.1 percent.

The economies of many Caribbean nations remain fragile and the GDP of Jamaica is expected to grow a mere .1 percent in 2013. Sluggish growth also is expected in Barbados (1 percent), Dominica (1.7 percent), Grenada (1.2 percent), St. Kitts and Nevis (1.8 percent), St. Vincent and the Grenadines (1.5 percent), St. Lucia (1.9 percent) and Trinidad and Tobago (2.5 percent).

Haiti with 6 percent growth is forecast to have the most vibrant growth in the Caribbean but it is coming off a devastating earthquake in 2010 when its economy shrank by 5.4 percent. Guyana (4.9 percent) and Suriname (4.7 percent) are the only Caribbean countries whose economic growth rates are expected to top 4 percent next year.

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