The myth of the 'Latin American decade'

José Antonio Ocampo, Eduardo F. Bastian, Marcos Reis


This paper analyzes Latin American performance over the period 2003-2014 with the purpose of evaluating two ideas: whether this period constituted so-called ‘golden years’ and whether the 2010s were likely to be a ‘Latin American decade’ This term was used several times by scholars, international organizations, and market experts, claiming that the region was finally on the right track after two decades of disappointing economic performance. However, the data shows that the claims were overoptimistic. We compare the region’s 2003-2014 performance with that in the 1980s and 1990s, evaluate how the region performed in the sub-periods 2003-2007 and 2008-2014, and compare the region’s 2003-2014 indicators with those of other selected developing regions during the same period. We show that the period in question was a ‘golden decade’ only when compared with the region’s own performance during the previous two decades, but not when compared with other developing regions. Moreover, we notice that the lack of structural change during this decade implies weak development performance for the region in the near future.

JEL codes: N16, O54, L16


Latin America, economic performance, developing regions

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