The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said today that the region is on track to enjoy four straight years of growth and achieve an increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per person of about 10 per cent for the 2003-2006 period.
"Latin America and the Caribbean will grow 4.3 per cent this year and as much as 4 per cent is likely in 2006. Should forecasts from ECLAC prove accurate, the region should complete four straight years of growth and achieve a total rise in per capita GDP of about 10 per cent, for 2003-2006," it says.
For 2005, Argentina is leading regional growth with a 7.3 per cent increase over 2004, followed by Venezuela with 7 per cent, Uruguay with 6.2 per cent, Chile with 6 per cent, Peru with 5.5 per cent and Panama with 4.5 per cent, it said.
"There is room for some optimism," ECLAC says, since the region "is better prepared to face the challenges," but it adds that quicker growth is needed to deal with serious problems in the labour market.
In 2004, the regional balance of payments current account registered a surplus for the second year running. The 2004 surplus was $17.9 billion, or 0.9 per cent of regional GDP. Exports rose 22.8 per cent, compared to 8.8 per cent in 2003, while imports rose 21.7 per cent, completing the recovery that began in 2003 after the decline in 2002. Current transfers from emigrant workers rose by $6.4 billion, or 18.3 per cent.
The slow but sustained recovery in wages, as both employment and wages have risen, has boosted private consumption, it says, but the region must stimulate saving and investment because risks persist. They include "the possibility of a traumatic correction to some existing imbalances in the international economy and the danger of a protectionist backlash."