Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Business Executives Annual Conference 2007

Each year, a Business Executives Annual Conference (Conferencia Anual de Ejecutivos – CADE) is held in Peru.

The 45th CADE took place this year from 29th November to 1st December in the city of Trujillo in northern Peru. The objective of this year’s debate was to determine “Everything we need to be a just and prosperous country”, or in the words of the CADE committee, to determine what Peru needs to do in order to become a first world country within the next 30 years.

However, the conclusion this year seems sadly little more than a reinforcement of what was established in previous years, namely, the need to gain a better understanding of how to breach the ever widening ‘rich poor divide’.

Things have advanced very little since 2006. As one of the members of the audience commented, “Peru is a long way off being a just and prosperous country, because it’s much easier to be prosperous than just.” Only very few of the many speakers who attended the event commented on what actually needs be done to combat poverty and to encourage social integration.

The two foreign speakers, Juan Enríquez Cabot and Xavire Sala-i-Martín claimed that the only way to attain justice, equality and prosperity is by investing in the future, and specifically by investing in education. 84% of those who attended CADE 2007 agreed that the Peruvian government’s main goal should be to improve the quality of the country’s education.

Yet the need to invest in education comes as old news – the last Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum ranked Peruvian primary education 95th out of 131 countries - the worst in the whole of South America.

The president of CADE 2007, Diego de la Torre (pictured above), called attention to the need for greater social responsibility and anthropological sensitivity as new concepts that should be form the basis of any enterprise in Peru. And the president of the Peruvian Institute of Business Administration (Instituto Peruano de Administracion de Empresas - IPAE), Claudio Herzka (pictured above), stated that in order to become more competitive, Peru needs to focus on the long-term.

Yet both of these proposals require long term investment, commitment and stability; goals that despite nearly 6 years of steady economic growth, Peru still hasn’t attained. Fernando Zavala, ex Economics Minister stated that Peru’s economy is above the average for Latin America and 95% of those who attended CADE 2007 agreed that Peru is advancing. Yet there is still a lot of work to be done with regards to poverty reduction – 43% of Peru is still living below the poverty line.

Javier Abugattás, a member of the panel, confirmed that one of the main obstacles to reducing poverty is the radical centralism that characterizes Peru. And Jaime Saavedra, another panel member, added that there is a great deal of inequality regarding the distribution of the country’s basic services – it is almost impossible for prospective businessmen from jungle regions to generate a sizeable income when the communication and transport systems are so deficient.

The discussion could have gone on for much longer, but when Fernando Zavala requested a second 6-minute extension, many members of the audience complained that they’d “be late for lunch”. It seems they had discussed poverty reduction for far long enough. Unfortunately, for the majority of Peruvians the debate is only just getting started.

Photo courtesy of El Comercio, Sunday 2nd December edition

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