The urgency of transforming privileges into rights to put an end to inequality

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Secretary-General of the Central American Integration System

El SALVADOR, San Salvador – Executive-Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, made a presentation entitled Regional Integration and Prospects for Central America’s Development highlighting the importance of implementing a new development model and finding new paths that allow countries to equalize to grow, and grow to equalize.

“How much longer can the culture of privilege, corruption, and inequality last? The disenchantment and anger are at a breaking point with regard to continuing a model associated with three decades of concentration of wealth and environmental degradation, with insufficient growth. The development model we are living under has no legitimacy today and young people know this, that’s why they are in the streets demonstrating,” she said.

Bárcena emphasized that the culture of privilege, which is a legacy of our colonial past, naturalizes inequalities and discrimination, social hierarchies, political deliberation and access to justice.

“We have to fight the culture of privilege. The current model is no longer working, not in terms of growth, or reducing inequality, or eradicating poverty,” she indicated.

ECLAC’s most senior representative added that one of the most eloquent manifestations of the culture of privilege is tax evasion, which amounts to 6.3 percent of GDP in Latin America, equivalent to $335 billion dollars, whereas spending on non-contributory social protection programs represents just 1.47 percent of GDP.

Furthermore, she warned that 76.8 percent of people in Latin America live with income that is below the three poverty lines, and more than half of the adult population (52 percent) in the middle strata had not completed 12 years of schooling as of 2017.

In light of the complex regional and global context, ECLAC’s executive secretary stressed the need to deepen integration and she highlighted the Central American process as a sustained effort, which nonetheless faces new challenges.

“Integration matters, very much. The Central American subregion should be proud of what it has achieved. Efforts have been made to preserve unity over two centuries. Central America is the most integrated subregion of Latin America and the Caribbean,” she stated.

Bárcena specified that, while Central America’s economy will grow 2.5 percent in 2019, poverty and extreme poverty have been increasing in the last few years, a trend that is expected to intensify in 2019. This goes hand in hand with rising unemployment rates that mainly affect young people in the subregion.

“In Central America, more than 600,000 young people are seeking to enter the labor market and only about 250,000 new formal jobs are being created. Given this reality, one of the options is to migrate. It is estimated that around 250,000 Central Americans emigrate from their countries. More than half of them are young people, some of whom are minors,” she warned.

In that sense, Bárcena highlighted El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico Comprehensive Development Plan, which promotes comprehensive solutions for migration, sustainable development and for deepening regional cooperation.

Finally, ECLAC’s executive secretary called for building a shared space for sustainable development, improving integration in infrastructure, energy, and logistics with a different development paradigm and model and with young people on board.

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