HOW do Latin America’s countries rank in terms of wealth? Whatever answer you have in mind is wrong, according to one measurement or another. Take GDP per capita: as of a few years ago, Brazil has been richer than Mexico. But if you account for purchasing power (that is, the amount of stuff people can buy in their country with the money they earn), Mexico jumps ahead. In Central America, Panama is about toovertake Costa Rica in terms of GDP per head (and already has in purchasing-power terms). But in terms of equality, it lags behind: poor Panamanians are worse off than poor Costa Ricans.
Latin America’s fastest-growing country has set its sights high. First it needs a government as impressive as its economy
Jul 14th 2011 | PANAMA CITY
ON A humid stretch of Pacific coast in one of the poorest parts of the Americas, somebody seems to have misplaced a chunk of Manhattan. The 50-storey skyscrapers of Panama City jut out of the jungle like nowhere else in low-rise Central America. Panama’s smart banks, open economy and long queues of boats at its ports have caused many to compare it to Singapore, another steamy success story. Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli, made his country’s first state visit there in 2010 and later said, “We copy a lot from Singapore and we need to copy more.”
The end of an old haulage dispute will give Mexican exports an edge
Jul 14th 2011 | MEXICO CITY
EVERY day along the world’s busiest border, an expensive and time-consuming pantomime is acted out. Goods coming from Mexico are painstakingly unloaded from Mexican lorries so that they can complete their journey in identical lorries driven by Americans. The North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA), introduced in 1994, promised each country’s lorry-drivers the right to roam freely in the other’s border states by 1995 and nationwide by 2000. But American unions, fearing that their members would be undercut, persuaded Congress to forbid Mexican hauliers from venturing more than a few miles beyond the frontier—even though 70% of the two countries’ $400 billion a year in trade is delivered by lorry.
THE United States’ ambassador in Mexico notoriously described the presidential candidates of the ruling National Action Party as a “grey” sort of bunch. In a questionnaire last week in El Universal, a daily newspaper, the leading panistas show off their human side. Alongside serious questions about the campaign, we learn about their favourite films (ominously, The Godfather is a popular choice), smells (good earthy Mexican countryside ones prevail), and even which actor or actress they fancy most (two candidates boost their internationalist credentials by going for Jennifer Aniston and Juliette Binoche; the rest play it safe by sticking with mexicanas).
THE Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico uninterrupted for seven decades until 2000, has never lost an election for governor in the state of Mexico. But it is a long time since it won one quite as crushingly as it did last night. Results this morning show that the PRI’s man, Eruviel Ávila, romped home with 62.6% of the vote, carrying every single one of the state’s 125 municipalities. The PRI also won convincingly in the two other governor’s races taking place yesterday, taking 57.4% in the big northern border state of Coahuila and reportedly not far off 50% in little Nayarit (whose official results are not yet up on the web, but should soon be here).