The myth of the 'Latin American decade'


  • José Antonio Ocampo Bastian: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (IE-UFRJ), Brazil
  • Eduardo F. Bastian Reis: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (IE-UFRJ), Brazil
  • Marcos Reis



Latin America, economic performance, developing regions


This paper analyzes Latin American performance over the period 2003-2014 with the purpose of evaluating two ideas: whether this period constituted so-called ‘golden years’ and whether the 2010s were likely to be a ‘Latin American decade’ This term was used several times by scholars, international organizations, and market experts, claiming that the region was finally on the right track after two decades of disappointing economic performance. However, the data shows that the claims were overoptimistic. We compare the region’s 2003-2014 performance with that in the 1980s and 1990s, evaluate how the region performed in the sub-periods 2003-2007 and 2008-2014, and compare the region’s 2003-2014 indicators with those of other selected developing regions during the same period. We show that the period in question was a ‘golden decade’ only when compared with the region’s own performance during the previous two decades, but not when compared with other developing regions. Moreover, we notice that the lack of structural change during this decade implies weak development performance for the region in the near future.

JEL codes: N16, O54, L16


Cárdenas M. (2011), “Latin America’s Decade: A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity”, The Brookings Institution, 11 July, available at:

Cimoli M., Porcile G. and Rovira S. (2010), “Structural Change and the BOP-Constraint: Why Did Latin America Fail to Converge?”, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 34 (2), pp. 389-411.

Cimoli M., Neto P., Basilio J. and Porcile G. (2015), “Cambio estructural y crecimiento”, CEPAL – Serie Desarrollo Productivo, no. 197, Santiago de Chile: Naciones Unidas, Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).

Crespi G., Tacsir E. and Vargas F. (2014), “Innovation Dynamics and Productivity: Evidence for Latin America”, UNU-MERIT Working Paper Series, no. 2014-092, Maastricht: United Nations University – Maastricht Economic and social Research institute on Innovation and Technology.

Dussel Peters E. (2005), “The Implications of China’s Entry into the WTO for Mexico”, Global Issue Papers, no. 24, Berlin: Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Erten B. and Ocampo J.A. (2013), “Super Cycles of Commodity Prices since the Mid-Nineteenth Century”, World Development, 44 (Apr), pp. 14-30.

Furtado C. (1961), Desenvolvimento e subdesenvolvimento, Rio de Janeiro: Fundo de Cultura.

Grazzi M., Pietrobelli C. and Szirmai A. (2016), “Determinants of Enterprise Performance in Latin America and the Caribbean: What Does the Micro-Evidence Tell Us?”, in Grazzi M. and Pietrobelli C. (eds.), Firm Innovation and Productivity in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Engine of Economic Development (pp. 1-36), New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Moreno L.A. (2011), La Década de América Latina y el Caribe, una oportunidad real, 2nd ed., Washington (DC): Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo.

Moreno-Brid J.C. and Garry S. (2016), “Economic Performance in Latin America in the 2000s: Recession, Recovery, and Resilience?”, Oxford Development Studies, 44 (4), pp. 384-400.

Ocampo J.A. (2005), “The Quest for Dynamic Efficiency: Structural Dynamics and Economic Growth in Developing Countries”, in Ocampo J.A. (ed.), Beyond Reforms: Structural Dynamics and Macroeconomic Vulnerability (pp. 3-43), Washington (DC): World Bank Publications and Stanford University Press.

Ocampo J.A. (2012), “Let’s Be Clear: This Will Not Be Latin America’s Decade”, Vox-Lacea, 14 September, Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association, available at:

Ocampo J.A. and Parra M. (2010), “The Terms of Trade for Commodities since the Mid-Nineteenth Century”, Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History/Revista de Historia Económica, 28 (1), pp. 11-43.

Ocampo J.A., Rada C. and Taylor L. (2009), Growth and Policy in Developing Countries: A Structuralist Approach, New York: Columbia University Press.

Palma J.G. (2010), “Why Has Productivity Growth Stagnated in Most Latin American Countries Since the Neo-Liberal Reforms?”, Cambridge Working Papers in Economics, no. 1.030, Cambridge (UK): University of Cambridge.

Penfold M. and Guzmán G.R. (2014), “The Growing but Vulnerable Middle Class in Latin America. Growth Patterns, Values and Preferences”, Public Policy and Productive Transformation Series, n. 17/2014, Caracas: CAF – Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina.

Prebisch R. ([1951] 2011), “Problemas Teóricos y Prácticos del Crecimiento Económico”, in Gurrieri A. (ed.), O Manifesto Latino-Americano e Outros Ensaios (pp. 247-297), Contraponto: São Paulo.

Rathbone J.P. (2013), “Doubts Come to Surface about the Decade of Latin America”, Financial Times, 12 May, online.

Rathbone J.P. (2014), “The Party is Ending for Latin America”, Financial Times, 30 October, online.

Schumpeter J.A. ([1911] 1934), The Theory of Economic Development, trans. by R. Opie, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, repr. 1961.

Talvi E. (2014), Macroeconomic Vulnerabilities in an Uncertain World: One Region, Three Latin Americas, Washington (DC): The Brookings Institution, Brookings Global – CERES Economic and Social Policy in Latin America Initiative.

Talvi E. and Munyo I. (2013), Latin America Macroeconomic Outlook: A Global Perspective. Are the Golden Years for Latin America Over?, Washington (DC): The Brookings Institution, Brookings Global – CERES Economic and Social Policy in Latin America Initiative.

The Economist (2010a), “Nobody’s Backyard”, The Economist, 9 September, online.

The Economist (2010b), “A Latin American Decade?”, The Economist, 9 September, online.

The Economist (2010c), “So Near and Yet so Far”, The Economist, 9 September, online.

Thirlwall A.P (1979), “The Balance of Payments Constraint as an Explanation of International Growth Rates Differences”, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review, 32 (128), pp. 45-53.

Tuluy H. (2012), Making Latin America’s Decade a Reality, World Bank blogs, 13 March, available online at:

United Nations (2010), El progreso de América Latina y el Caribe hacia los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio. Desafíos para lograrlos con igualdad, Santiago de Chile: Naciones Unidas, Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).

Utar H. and Torres Ruiz L.B. (2013), “International Competition and Industrial Evolution: Evidence from the Impact of Chinese Competition on Mexican Maquiladoras”, Journal of Development Economics, 105 (Nov), pp. 267-287.

Velasco A. (2011), “Latin America’s Glossed Decade”, Project Syndicate, 18 May, available at:

Velasco A. (2013), “Emerging Markets Nirvana Lost”, Project Syndicate, 11 September, available at:

Yu Y. (2011), “Identifying the Linkages between Major Mining Commodity Prices and China’s Economic Growth: Implications for Latin America,” IMF Working Paper, no. 11/86, Washington (DC): International Monetary Fund, available at:




How to Cite

Ocampo, J. A., Bastian, E. F., & Reis, M. (2018). The myth of the ’Latin American decade’. PSL Quarterly Review, 71(285), 231–251.