Central America: Economic Progress and Reforms

Thursday, November 13, 2008
12:00 - 2:00 p.m.
IMF Conference Hall (HQ2)
**Open to Fund/Bank Staff and the Public**
(light refreshments will be served)

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Central America has made substantial progress in recent years in moving economic reforms forward and deepening regional and global integration. As result of these efforts, the region has experienced higher growth, increased capital inflows, and some reductions in poverty rates. But Central America remains vulnerable to adverse shocks and continues to face widespread poverty. While today Central America is in better condition to face such shocks, the current turmoil in global financial markets and U.S. growth slowdown could put at risk the hard-won gains of recent years. Faced with these challenges, the authorities are monitoring developments closely and are taking precautionary measures, but they also need to continue implementing productivity-enhancing reforms and measures aimed at reducing income inequality and poverty.

This book forum will start by reviewing global financial and economic developments, discuss what this means for the region, and present the main insights from the publication "Central America-Economic Progress and Reform." It will be moderated by Josť Fajgenbaum and begin with short presentations by Robert Rennhack and Alfred Schipke. The presentations will be followed by comments from Tomas Dueñas, Ambassador of Costa Rica to the United States, Brian O'Neill, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department, and Hugo Noé Pino, Advisor to the Executive Director at the World Bank.

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Moderator: Josť Fajgenbaum


Tomas Dueñas is the Ambassador of Costa Rica to the United States. Previously, he served as Minister of Foreign Trade (2000-02) and Minister of Economy (2000). Ambassador Dueñas also served as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Costa Rica Investment and Development Board (CINDE). Ambassador Dueñas has been a staunch supporter of Costa Rica's political and economic openness and played an active role in the negotiations of bilateral and regional trade agreements. He has been a member of the Board of Directors of Costa Rica's largest newspaper, La Nación. Mr. Dueñas was educated at the University of Miami, where he earned a degree in Business Administration. After graduating, he pursued further education at Columbia, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Brian O'Neill has been Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere at the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of International Affairs since 2007. Prior to this appointment, he served as Managing Director and Vice-Chairman, Investment Banking at JPMorgan. Mr. O'Neill spent his 31-year career in banking working with governments, financial institutions, and corporate clients throughout the countries of Latin America, as well as Canada. He is a Director of the Council of the Americas and of the Americas Society; a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council on International Policy; a fellow of the Foreign Policy Association; and a member of the Advisory Committee for the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. Prior to Treasury, he was Vice-chairman of the board of Latin American Agribusiness Development Corp (LAAD), a member of the supervisory board of Erste Bank, and a director of Gafisa. He holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego and an M.B.A. from the American Graduate School of International Management.

Hugo Noé Pino is Advisor to the Executive Director for Central America, Mexico, Spain, and Venezuela at World Bank's Board of Directors. Prior to this appointment, he was Executive Director for Central America at the Inter-American Development Bank (July 2006-June 2007); Finance Minister of Honduras (2006); Honduran Ambassador to the United States (1999-2002); Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1998-99), and President of the Central Bank of Honduras (1994-98). He holds a B.A. and M.A. in economics from UNAH, and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Texas at Austin. He has authored a number of books and articles on macroeconomics and economic development.

Robert Rennhack is Assistant Director in the IMF's Western Hemisphere Department and heads the division that covers Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. He has worked extensively on Latin America, leading missions to countries throughout the region. Earlier this decade he led missions to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and co-edited a book entitled The Macroeconomy of Central America. Most recently, he led the IMF team that prepared the Regional Economic Outlook: Western Hemisphere. He received his graduate training in economics from Yale University and completed undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan.

Alfred Schipke is the IMF's Regional Resident Representative for Central America, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. In this capacity he has led the Western Hemisphere Department's analytical work on Central America, fostered the dialogue with the Central American authorities on regional issues, expanded the Fund's regional outreach activities, and led missions to El Salvador. He holds a Ph.D. in economics, has taught international trade and finance at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and was a research fellow at the Kiel Institute of World Economics. He has authored and co-edited a number of books and articles, including three volumes on Central America. His current research focuses on issues related to economic integration and linkages between macroeconomics and financial markets.


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