From Volume 5, Issue Number 30 of EIR Online, Published July 25, 2006

World Economic News

Mercosur Development Bank on Cordoba Agenda

Creation of a "Mercosur Development Bank" was on the agenda at the meeting of finance and foreign ministers in Cordoba, Argentina July 20-21, along with proposals to address inequities existing within the common market which particularly affect smaller member countries Uruguay and Paraguay (SEE IBERO-AMERICAN DIGEST).

EIR will be confirming the details on the Development Bank proposal, published by several media outlets July 20.

There was a general sense among those present that the Cordoba summit will launch a new phase for Mercosur, which will be facilitated by the addition of new permanent member Venezuela. Chavez has offered $5 billion to help capitalize the bank. The ministers also agreed to set up a $100 million fund to provide development credit, which for the moment will be managed by Brazil's National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) and Argentina's state Banco de la Nacion. The hope is that other state-run banks will also participate.

'Integration Not Synonymous with Free Trade'

"Integration is not synonymous with trade liberalization," said Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana July 20. Mercosur has many weaknesses and deficiencies, and is an "imperfect" customs union. But the reality is, that as a region, "we have a GDP of $1 billion, more than $200 billion in exports, $120 billion in imports, 250 million inhabitants, and an area that extends from the Caribbean to Antarctica." The world is in a "profound crisis, afflicting all of Latin America," to which the "uncontrolled openings of the 1990s" contributed greatly. But times have changed, there are new governments, new expectations, and the integration process must reflect that, he underscored.

Philippines' Economic 'Competitiveness' Rating Hits Bottom

The Philippines ranks dead-last in several crucial economic categories among 61 developed and developing nations, as ranked by the World Competitive Yearbook, the Manila Times reported July 20. While the Yearbook uses categories for "competitiveness" which are largely World Bank-style gobbledygook, the report includes the following:

* The continued exodus of the country's medical professionals aggravated the nation's brain-drain rating (58th of 61); * Basic infrastructure sank to the bottom of the pile at 61st;

* Poor employment numbers (54th);

* Dead-last in the pupil-teacher ratio (61st);

* Next to last in expenses for research and development, education, and health (60th).

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