As our Annual Meeting draws to a close, I wish to thank the Prime Minister of
The Bahamas, the Honourable Hubert Ingraham; the Prime Minister of Barbados, the
Honourable David Thompson; and the Prime Minister of Belize, the Honourable Dean
Barrow. I also wish to again thank our hosts, the United States of America, as well as the
city of Miami, the delegations of the Bank’s member countries, the seminar and meeting
panelists and participants, and, very especially, the staff of the Inter-American
Development Bank and of the other organizations and businesses involved in this event,
whose capable work behind the scenes has made it a success.
For us, the Annual Meeting provides a unique opportunity to open a window on
the Bank’s work for all to see, and to hear the diverse perspectives of our member
countries and of representatives from the private sector, civil society, and others
committed to the vital, collective effort of development. Here, we can take the pulse of
conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean, update our knowledge, and refine our
strategies and approaches.
This year, some 5,000 people attended more than 10 seminars and events on key
current issues such as mobile banking and other financial democracy strategies, the role
of philanthropy and innovative public-private partnerships in the fight against poverty,
and the challenge of climate change and energy sustainability.
The discussions and papers presented at this Annual Meeting confirm our general
perception that the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean are well equipped to
weather the instability in international markets, mainly owing to the macroeconomic
gains of recent years.
The address by the Governor for the United States endorsed this view, citing the
work done to balance public finances, lower debt levels, and open markets. In the last
five years, at the regional level, external debt shrank from 41.5 percent of GDP to
20.3 percent, and international reserves climbed by 285 billion dollars, while per capita
income rose at rates unseen in 40 years.
Strong economic performance and effective and innovative social policies have
driven down the percentage of persons in poverty and indigence by some 20 percent and
34 percent, respectively, in the past five years, as noted by the Executive Secretary of the
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Yet, as the Governor for Argentina recalled, the backdrop for this meeting is a
climate of uncertainty centered on the developed economies. We must stay alert in this
time of economic and financial turbulence, adopting sustainable public policies to
maintain growth levels, lock in welfare gains, and spread benefits further into the lowestincome
But while the region as a whole shows signs of strength, we must acknowledge
the difficulties of some countries, especially those having to cope with higher oil and
The Governor for The Bahamas expressed this concern outright, voicing a
widespread view in the Caribbean and Central America. The Bank stands ready and
willing to aid countries in mitigating the impact of current economic conditions on the
While fuller integration with the world brings new challenges, it also creates
unrivaled opportunities to advance faster along the path of progress. It is therefore vital to
continue working for closer and more effective integration with the global economy. As
the Governor for Canada has said on several occasions, the Aid for Trade initiative is the
most useful tool for reaping the greatest rewards from openness to the world.
In exchanges during the Annual Meeting and seminars, experts and Governors
expressed concerns about climate change and its impact on the region and the world.
Mr. Ricardo Lagos, former Chilean President and United Nations Special Envoy
for Climate Change, made plain in his presentation that this phenomenon poses great and
unforeseeable risks to humanity. The adverse impact on our quality of life and that of
future generations warrants immediate steps and, more importantly, coordinated action by
the international community.
I agree with the Governor for Germany when he says that climate change is a
threat to everybody everywhere, but will have a greater impact on the poor. The
Governor for the Dominican Republic, for his part, spoke of the devastating effects of
greater intensity and frequency of natural disasters linked to climate factors.
I share the interest expressed by the Governor for Mexico in Integrated Disaster
Risk Management, and we pledge to keep working to address the vulnerability of certain
countries and subregions to catastrophic risk.
I concur with the Governor for Japan on the leading role to be played by the Bank
in this area. The Bank has recognized the urgency and supranational nature of this
challenge. One year ago it launched the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change
Initiative (SECCI), to support countries across the full spectrum of policy efforts using a
range of lending, technical assistance, and knowledge transfer tools.
As the Governor for Guatemala said, the policy menu must include finding
alternative sources of energy. While helping to allay the problem, these can also become
sources of investment, jobs, and well-being.
New approaches for sustained and inclusive growth
We know that sustained and inclusive growth in the Region requires steady effort
and long-term vision. But it also demands innovative strategies and creative approaches
to bring new actors into this shared enterprise.
The Bank has traditionally focused on cooperation with central governments on
major public policy issues. Yet spreading the benefits of growth, as the Governor for
Brazil said, means strengthening ties with other government actors in development at the
state and municipal levels.
Enhancing their fiscal condition and governance will create avenues for
collaboration with subnational entities and public corporations in areas like water and
sanitation that, as the Governor for Austria noted, are crucial for poverty alleviation and
for reaching the Millennium Development Goals.
The Bank has worked systematically to meet the growing demand for nonsovereign
guaranteed financing and to support local institutional capacity building, a task
that stands, as the Governor for Peru suggested, among the Region’s unfinished business.
The private sector is a powerful ally in the fight against poverty, building on the
work done by governments. Bill Gates summed it up eloquently when he said that
“creative capitalism” has a unique ability to design and implement solutions to
development problems, based on market incentives and sound criteria of scalability and
The Bank’s Opportunities for the Majority initiative identifies, develops, and
replicates projects and partnerships with the private sector that have a broad social impact
and complement public policies.
Yet the challenges are such that the work of the public sector and private
enterprise are not enough. Partnerships with foundations, NGOs, and individual donors
will be a key part of the Bank’s efforts, going forward, to marshall new resources,
leverage partnerships, and spark innovation.
At this year’s meeting we launch the “Yo Amo América” (I Love America)
campaign with some of the most famous recording artists of the Americas, to get the
message out to new generations about giving and generosity with their resources, time,
and especially heart.
Music is more than a powerful tool to communicate messages of change and
influence the region’s future. It can also work directly to change lives. The Bank’s
support for Venezuela’s National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras, which
benefits 500,000 children and young people each year, most of them poor and vulnerable,
is a clear example of music as a force for civic awareness, equity, and poverty reduction.
Work to achieve these tasks must also be inclusive of those groups left out or
behind. The Bank must continue supporting gender issues in its poverty strategy, as the
Governor for the United Kingdom said in her address. The inclusion of women and
excluded ethnic groups is essential, to effectively address the poverty and development
problems facing our countries.
New Operational Framework
All these issues call for a sound, innovative, flexible Bank with more financial
muscle, as the Governor for Colombia put it.
We have an opportunity to make our work program more substantive, enhance its
quality and impact, and make financial resources more flexible and available to a larger,
more heterogeneous region facing structural challenges in a turbulent economic climate.
I wish to thank the Governor for Spain for hailing the Bank as the institutional
standard-bearer for the region and an essential and key interlocutor in the dialogue
between the countries, the public sector, the private sector, and civil society in the region,
and between it and the world.
This Bank was founded on the commitment to integration and international
engagement of a group of visionary leaders. That spirit has brought us back here to
Miami, and I cordially invite you to celebrate that spirit once again at the next Annual
Meeting in Medellín, Colombia.
There, we will commemorate half a century of this collective undertaking that is
the Bank in a thriving, revitalized city enthusiastically positioning itself to seize the
opportunities of the global environment, where our peoples have so much to give and to