Latin America: Making the Good Times Better

Latin America has enjoyed tremendous economic dynamism and a rising quality of life in recent years. But, faced with new challenges, the question is: how best to sustain this progress?

As I travel through the region next week—visiting Panama, Uruguay, and Brazil—I’m looking forward to hearing the views of government officials, parliamentarians, and university students on the key challenges facing their countries today. Here are three questions that I look forward to discussing during my trip.

A Stronger Financial Architecture for Tomorrow’s World

The international monetary system (IMS) is a topic that encompasses a wide range of issues—reserve currencies, exchange rates, capital flows, and the global financial safety net, to name a few. It is one of the key issues on the G-20’s work agenda for 2011, and a topic that is eliciting lively discussion—for instance the recent, insightful report of the group chaired by Michel Camdessus, called the “Palais-Royal Initiative”.

Listening to and Learning from Asia

In Daejeon, Korea earlier this week, a remarkable event took place that enabled the world to hear the voice of Asia and to learn how the region has been able to show such great resilience in the face of the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s. On July 12 and 13, more than 1,000 officials, economists, bankers, analysts, and media assembled for a conference titled Asia 21: Leading the Way Forward, hosted by the Korean government and the IMF. I personally learned a great deal about Asia’s growing stake in the global economy—and the global economy’s growing stake in Asia. As the world strives to leave the crisis behind, the economic center of gravity is shifting increasingly eastwards, and Asia’s role is more vital than ever before.

The Priority of Growth and Jobs—the IMF’s Dialogue with the Unions

I had the pleasure of addressing the 2nd World Congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, and participating in a panel debate. I also met privately with some key union leaders.

For me, three main points emerged.

First, I was confirmed in my belief that, for the IMF, our interaction with the labor movement is extremely valuable. We make it a point to meet with unions, including in the context of our lending programs. Over the past few years, I have personally met international trade union leaders four times—on the eve of important G-20 meetings—as well as with individual union leaders. So the labor movement has a lot of influence on the way we work—even if they do not always think so.

Africa Is Back

In the wake of the global financial crisis, there is a fresh energy in Sub-Saharan Africa–and a broad consensus on the road ahead. Above all, there is the strong sense that Africa’s destiny will be driven by Africans, not by others.

That at least is my initial feeling after two days of dialogue in Kenya with President Kibaki and government officials, civil society leaders and trade unionists, academics and students, and ordinary Kenyans. “Africa is back” is how I described it in a live TV debate in Nairobi with Prime Minister Odinga,  Minister of Finance Kenyatta, Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathai, Transparency International’s Akere Muna and my friend, Bob Geldof.