By: Nicholas O’Connor, AméricaEconomía
Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos and his government enjoyed a successful 2015. His persistence in negotiations with the FARC led to what looks to be a peaceful solution to a conflict that claimed the lives of thousands of Colombians and caused the displacement of thousands more.
His recent visit to the US also had positive results. Barack Obama pledged $450 million in aid in order to continue US support for Plan Colombia. The successful initiative has been rechristened Peace Colombia and will look to solidify the achievements made since the inception of the first aid plan over 15 years ago.
Colombia’s stability has not gone unnoticed in Latin America either. AméricaEconomía Intelligence recently published the results of its Ranking of Latin American Finance Ministers for 2015. The ranking is constructed with input from the region’s top economists as well as the readers of the magazine. Mauricio Cárdenas, Colombia’s Finance Minister since 2012, was named in top spot. This comes as an improvement on his second place finish in 2014. Cárdenas performance stood out due to the steps he has taken in order to improve the country’s macroeconomic stability and to strengthen its financial institutions. The success is even more remarkable considering that oil production makes up a large part of Colombia’s economic output.
Chile’s Rodrigo Valdés came in in second place. The results show that his work is highly rated at an international level which comes as a slight contrast to how he is viewed locally. The Chilean economy continues to stutter as copper prices remain low. Last years poll topper, Panama’s Dulcidio de la Guardia, completes the podium. The growth of Panama’s economy continues to lead the region although there are some concerns over the continued delays related to the expansion of the canal.
Returning to the theme of Colombia, it must now be recognized that Plan Colombia was a success. Hundreds of millions of US dollars helped bring one of Latin America’s oldest democracies back from the brink of failure. Alvaro Uribe, President of Colombia from 2002 to 2007, played a key role in the process and will still have a key role to play in the country’s future. Unfortunately, current relations between Uribe and Santos are not fantastic. The former President has been vociferous in his criticism of his successor. It is important that the two learn to work together as both will be present at the heart of Colombian politics for the foreseeable future.
Cárdenas has been rumored to be a potential successor for Santos when his term finishes in 2018. An astute politician he has been a steadfast ally for Santos and has been openly showing his support for the President’s Austeridad Inteligente(Intelligent Austerity) policy that calls for a reduction of government expenditure. Cárdenas, eager to show his support, tweeted a photo of his economy class air ticket to Davos last month. If he can manage to keep Colombia’s economy ticking over during the next few years of low commodity prices, he will be well positioned by the time the 2018 elections come around. Many presume that he will have to face off against the aforementioned Alvaro Uribe. A tough task indeed, but his chances have been given a boost with this award.
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