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Opening Remarks: Business Forum

2024 IDB and IDB Invest Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors      
President Ilan Goldfajn


Punta Cana, Dominican Republic  
As prepared for delivery         

Good morning! Let me begin by thanking our host, the Dominican Republic, and especially Finance Minister Jochi Vicente, for graciously hosting today’s business forum.

Let me also offer a special thank you to all the business leaders and entrepreneurs who traveled to join us. You and your work are vitally important to us at the IDB and to the future of Latin America and the Caribbean.

As you know, the central topic of our meetings is how we can achieve greater impact at a greater scale. And here is where the private sector comes in. To have greater reach and scale, we must join forces and mobilize. Without the private sector, we don’t have the required scale.

Indeed, the magnitude of our challenges is such that no individual institution can do it on its own. Partnering with the private sector is essential for us to reach the needed scale to create opportunities, lift people out of poverty and fight climate change.

Let me say how appropriate it is for the Dominican Republic to host the Annual Meeting and be the venue for discussing the power of public-private collaboration given its role as host of the 10th Summit of the Americas in November 2025.

The IDB Group will be there to help convene the 5th CEO Summit of the Americas, the premiere venue for public-private dialogue in the region.

Today, I’d like to share my vision for the region, discuss some of the challenges and opportunities we face, and talk about what we’re doing at the IDB to better partner with the private sector and companies like yours.

LAC grew faster than anticipated in the last couple of years, driven mostly by the larger countries.

Inflation is declining, due to responsible monetary and fiscal policy policies. Poverty declined 10% according to the latest data, and likely fell further last year.

Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean surged in 2022, setting a record, that it likely matched again in 2023, according to initial data.

Labor markets have been remarkably strong. Unemployment rates have plummeted to some of the lowest levels in recent decades.

So, the question is this: Will this recent better-than-expected performance will last?

It depends on Latin America and the Caribbean seizing the incredible opportunity that the global context provides the region.

If successful, Latin America and the Caribbean could be at a potential inflection point. 

The reason is that the region has great potential to help solve some of our biggest shared global challenges:

For decades, Latin America and the Caribbean has been viewed through the lens of its needs—its need for financing, its need to reduce debt.

But today, the world also needs Latin America and the Caribbean. That’s because of the region’s potential to be part of the solution to our shared challenges.

With the right reforms and investment, the region could be at the center of the effort to protect the world’s biodiversity, provide it with clean energy, and alleviate global food insecurity.

And so, the question we ask at the IDB is how can we position the region to be part of the solution to these global challenges while also reducing poverty and inequality?  

The answer is to make the right short-term reforms and investments to leverage these opportunities while making the right long-term reforms and investments to increase productivity and economic growth over the long term.

To seize the moment, we must continue investing in our capacity to meet the world’s need to protect our greatest natural resources, like the Amazon.

We must also keep investing in clean energy and food production. At the IDB, we’re helping countries do this.

For example, IDB Invest, our private-sector arm, is providing a $50 million loan to Allkem, a world-class lithium producer, to boost lithium production in Argentina. This will promote low-carbon and climate-resilient private-sector development in Argentina.

Now, let me talk about some of the other efforts needed to help the region grow faster.

We need to strengthen the rule of law. Weak rule of law limits economic growth.

For example, poor contract enforcement discourages investment. Who’s going to invest if they don’t think laws will be complied with?

In addition to legal security, the region needs basic physical security. It’s not just parents who want safer neighbors. Investors and business owners want them too!

Why? Because high crime limits growth. The IDB estimated that crime costs the region 3.5% of GDP each year, double that of developed countries.

LAC accounts for just 8% of the world’s population, but 1/3 of its murders. That diverts public resources away from investments that could increase productivity.

For the region to grow faster over the long term, it must also make longer-term reforms and take a long-term approach to investing much more in physical and digital infrastructure.

Between 2008 and 2017, Latin America and the Caribbean put just 2.8% of GDP into infrastructure – that’s half what East Asian and Pacific countries invested.

Partly because of that, over the past two decades, emerging Asian economies have grown 12x as much as our region.

And today, our mobile broadband speeds can be 10x slower than in OECD countries. That limits productivity.

Investing in digital infrastructure will improve connections, but also public services and educational opportunities. If more schools are connected, it helps improve human capital.

That leads to my last point. We must invest more in human capital.

Companies need workers with the right education and skills.

Today, over 50% of 15-year-olds don’t understand what they read.

So, we must invest better in education. This will help us take better advantage of our greatest natural resource—our people.

To grow quickly not just for one year, but for decades, we need to invest in our human capital. When we do this, the results can be remarkable.

A good example is Globant, an Argentine unicorn that builds software for companies like Google and Electronic Arts.

Globant was started by four friends in Buenos Aires 20 years ago. Today, it has 27,000 employees in 30 countries and it’s one of the world’s fastest-growing companies.

If we want more companies like Globant, we must take a long-term approach to investing in the region’s youth, giving them the skills they need to thrive in tomorrow’s digital economy.

And, of course, business leaders like you know better than anyone about the region’s high taxes on companies, high taxes on labor, burdensome labor regulations, and a lack of competition. All this lowers productivity and growth.

That’s one reason why half the region’s workers are employed informally.

We must make it easier for companies to legally employ workers and invest.

As I said at the start, the private sector is key to the region’s future. And we want to further strengthen it.

That’s why we launched our new program, BID for the Americas.

"BID FOR THE AMERICAS" is not just a program; it's a commitment to forge closer economic ties between Latin America, the Caribbean, and the rest of the IDB’s member countries, here in the Americas and throughout Europe and Asia.

It symbolizes a collaborative effort to highlight and leverage the unique business and economic opportunities the IDB offers.

Through this initiative, we're reaching out to the private sector, demonstrating how engaging with Latin America and the Caribbean can lead to transformative impacts on development while yielding substantial business benefits.

Since the launch of Bid for the Americas in September and the Responsible Investment Forum in November, we’ve held investor roadshows in Miami, Tokyo and New York. We’ll hold additional roadshows in four other U.S. cities this year. And we’ll do international cities, including Madrid, starting in May.

Our approach is holistic, addressing the needs for procurement, trade and investment, and financing, with a keen eye on sustainable and inclusive growth.

To improve procurement processes and facilitate private-sector participation in our projects we introduced new tools such as our Bidder Center and the Build the Americas App.

These tools will become an important resource for companies in all our member countries to successfully bid on projects. We believe that streamlining procurement can have a tangible impact on the quality of our projects, leaving a lasting impact on communities.

Let's talk specifics. Latin America and the Caribbean has historically faced challenges in fully integrating into the global trade and investment landscape.

Our response? A comprehensive strategy to lower these barriers, facilitating access to markets and capital.

Our efforts to bolster trade and investment include facilitating partnerships through business matchmaking events and the platform.

A prime example includes U.S. technology firms expanding their operations to Brazil, supported by trade missions that opened direct dialogue with local partners, illustrating the initiative's role in opening new markets and fostering economic ties.

Recognizing the importance of financing, we focus on mobilizing resources for transformative projects. Here, infrastructure stands as a pillar of development. Acknowledging this, we're championing efforts to connect companies from in and outside the region with significant infrastructure projects across Latin America and the Caribbean.

The potential here is vast, from transportation networks to digital infrastructure, each project is not just a business opportunity but a chance to make a lasting impact on communities.

Moreover, innovation is at the heart of our mission. Through IDB Lab, we're tapping into cutting-edge solutions to address development challenges, creating a space where technology and creativity meet the needs of the region.

For instance, a collaboration with U.S. startups in deploying fintech solutions in Mexico has demonstrated how targeted financing can address specific development challenges while offering new business opportunities.

This is where private-sector ingenuity and innovation can truly shine, bringing transformative solutions to the forefront and technological advancements to the region.

While we anticipate challenges such as navigating diverse regulatory environments and ensuring project sustainability, our commitment to strategic collaboration and adaptation remains steadfast.

We envision "BID for the Americas" as a catalyst for enduring partnerships that drive economic growth, innovation, and sustainable development.

Through "BID for the Americas," we're dedicated to smoothing the path for companies looking to explore and expand in the region.

From simplifying procurement processes to fostering direct investments and partnerships, our aim is to create a win-win scenario where local and international businesses thrive while contributing to the region's development goals.

As we embark on this journey, we're not just seeking participants; we're looking for partners in progress. "BID for the Americas" is more than a program; it's a bridge between the rest of the world and Latin America and the Caribbean.

To help the region seize this opportunity and the inflection point, the IDB is transforming itself.

This annual meeting is historic. It will be remembered for years and maybe decades.

The IDB is proposing—for the first time ever—three transformative changes:

•    A new institutional strategy    
•    A new vision, business model and capitalization for IDB Invest    
•    A more scalable, catalytic and sustainable business model for IDB Lab

These changes will make the IDB Group bigger, better, more impactful, and better able to work with the private sector to build a more business-friendly environment, unlock investment and accelerate development.

In sum, the world needs Latin America and the Caribbean now more than ever.

The private sector stands as an indispensable partner in achieving the scale and impact necessary to boost sustainable growth and development.

Therefore, our BID for the Americas program stands not just as an initiative, but as an essential element to unlock transformative opportunities for the region.

Please help us turn this historic opportunity to transform the IDB and the region into a reality. People in Latin America and the Caribbean would really appreciate our joint efforts.

Thank you.   

About the IDB Group

The IDB Group is the leading source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean. We contribute to improving lives by providing financial solutions and development expertise to public- and private-sector clients. The Group comprises the IDB, which has worked with governments for more than 60 years; IDB Invest, which serves the private sector; and IDB Lab, which tests innovative ways to enable more inclusive growth. 

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