Poverty has a woman’s face, says Bárcena


POVERTY today has a face of the woman, says Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) executive secretary Alicia Bárcena.


During the inauguration of 37th Session of the ECLAC in Havana on Tuesday, Barcena said discrimination, especially against women, closed opportunities, and that the cost of exclusion was grave for an entire generation.


She said the region needed to foster an environmental big push as the strategic pillar of industrial and technological policy, the creation of public goods and services, the transition toward less segregated territories and cities, advancement toward the digital economy, and a change in the energy matrix.


Barcena insisted on the need to move toward a new development pattern that allowed for achieving a virtuous circle between growth, equality and sustainability for present and future generations, without leaving anyone behind – as set forth in the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved by the United Nations in 2015.


She said the social gaps and lags that Latin American and Caribbean countries suffered today had a negative impact on productivity, fiscal policy, environmental sustainability and the spread of the knowledge society.


“ECLAC, as well as the government of Cuba, have both pointed on numerous occasions to the importance of a comprehensive approach to development, which is to say, development in which the economy advances, with social progress and respect for the environment, which gives rise to sustainable development,” she said.


Barcena called for closing structural gaps for the sake of future generations.


“The political economy of highly unequal societies and the culture of privilege are obstacles to progress in development with equality. The region still bears the colonial vestiges of a culture of privilege that normalizes social hierarchies and highly unequal access to the fruits of progress, political participation and production assets. We must consolidate a culture of equal rights, which is the direct opposite of the culture of privilege,” she said. “Inequality is inefficient. Discrimination closes opportunities, especially discrimination against women. Today in our region we see that poverty has a face of the woman. The cost of exclusion is very grave. We propose a path of equality, the expansion of fiscal capacity to cover all, that is a new welfare state, a more development oriented public sector. We must commit to fight against corruption both in the public and private sectors. Today at least 57 per cent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean don’t trust their own institution… Let’s also tackle tax evasion. In sum, equality, productivity and democracy are complementary strategic goods and one cannot be substituted for another, even more so in a world such as ours today that is experiencing sharp economic, political and environmental tensions.”


Barcena said equality was efficient because it created inclusive institutions and a culture that rewarded innovation and effort, and not economic actors’ social class, ethnicity, gender or political connections.


She also stressed that an active State that avoided precariousness with regard to all that was public was a fundamental condition for sustainable development with equality.

Furthermore, she reaffirmed the organization’s concern regarding the current global scenario with trends toward the strengthening of protectionism and unilateralism.

“As never before, the issues of poverty, immigration, war and inequality are global issues. Climate change and the threat that it represents to future generations is, by definition, an issue that knows no borders. As never before, humanity confronts the need to cooperate globally on a multilateral basis and with mutual respect. This is a cause that ECLAC has made its best efforts to further,” said Barcena. “ECLAC reaffirms that the task that lies ahead for the region is to move toward sustainable development in its three dimensions: social, economic and environmental. To achieve this, it is necessary to revitalize investment and fully insert the region in the fourth industrial revolution, with a central focus on decarbonization and decoupling growth and environmental impact. “Moving toward this new development pattern requires the concurrence of a macroeconomy for development, social policies that strengthen equality and capacities, and industrial and technological policy designed around the environmental big push. We could be the last generation to have the power to do what’s necessary for the present and future generations.”

The event brought together representatives of ECLAC’s 46 member countries and 13 associate members and was attended by more than 25 ministers, deputy ministers and other senior authorities from more than 20 countries’ departments of Foreign Affairs, Energy, Mining, Public Works, the Environment, Trade, Social Development, Women’s Affairs, Education, Economy, Finance, Production, Information Technologies, Health and Planning, among others.

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