Education key in growth
Latin America will have to invest more in educating students and its workforce before it can compete economically with European and Asian countries, Miami Herald Latin American Editor Andres Oppenheimer said Tuesday to the Houston World Affairs Council.
"While Asians are obsessed with the future and guided by pragmatism, Latin Americans are obsessed with the past and guided by ideology," Oppenheimer said.
He said that until Latin American countries begin to concentrate more in education, they will to lag behind the rest of the world.
"The main reason is that while Asians and Eastern Europeans, mostly, and Indians, are focusing heavily on education and creating a more educated workforce, Latin America is not. Latin America is investing about 4 or 5 percent of (gross domestic product) in education. European countries are spending much more, he said."
Schools need to worry more about the quality of education children receive, he said.
"In China I found that since last year all public schools are teaching compulsory English starting at third grade in elementary school. Right now there are more kids starting English in China than here in the United States," he said.
He also said that countries in Latin America should diversify their types of professions to balance the economy.
"We produce lots of lawyers, lots of psychologists, but almost no engineers and almost no technicians," Oppenheimer said.
Latin American leaders will also have to change, he said.
Leaders such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are obsessed with old revolutionaries, such as Simon Bolivar, who died, he said, and that can be detrimental.
"It was a different world," he said.
Latin Americans living in the United States will begin to have an even greater impact on elections and the economy in the future, Oppenheimer said.
"I think that eventually the U.S. will pay more attention to Latin America, mainly because of the Hispanic vote and more and more Hispanics are voting," he said.
Oppenheimer said that within the next several decades Latin America will become a stronger trade partner with the United States, if for nothing else than their proximity.