July 22, 2019
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Future of LatAm development depends on sustainability

By Alfonso Fernandez

Panama City, Jun 24 (efe-epa).- Sustainability is gaining "more momentum" in Latin America, and "the future will be sustainable or it will not take place" given that sustainability will impact all aspects of economic development in the region, experts said in the opening session of the Sustainability Week conference, organized by IDB Invest.

"Sustainability goes beyond the financial question. Sustainable means that the projects we're working on will be sustainable over the long term. And it has a number of aspects: social, environmental and relating to corporate governance," said IDB Invest general director James Scriven in an interview with EFE.

Scriven participated in the opening session of Sustainability Week, the big regional forum organized yearly by his organization which kicked off on Monday in Panama City.

Speaking at the conference was Alberto Aleman, the former administrator of the Panama Canal, who noted that the ambitious project to expand the international waterway and increase the draft of vessels that can traverse it demanded a multifaceted focus.

"What is the Canal? A business of administering water. Therefore, the big risk was precisely the degradation of the hydrographic basin," he said.

Aleman emphasized that the key for successfully undertaking the Canal expansion project also included having the communities in the area that would be affected by the construction work make good decisions.

The conference is designed to be a "platform" for doing business and "exchanging experiences" to deal with the challenges posed by development in Latin America.

At this year's conference, which will last until June 28, 650 participants from more than 30 countries, including managing directors, will analyze the question of sustainability in sectors such as infrastructure, tourism, capital markets and corporate governance.

The gathering brings together representatives of investment funds such as Pimco and Brookfield, banks like HSBC, BNP Paribas and Banco Pichincha, among others, as well as representatives from academia and assorted institutions.

Among the issues that has attracted the most attention is the issuance of green and social bonds, which are growing in popularity throughout Latin American and the Caribbean, along with so-called loans indexed to sustainability.

Rachel Robboy, IDB Invest's risk management chief, emphasized that the risks related to extreme climate events, which are becoming more and more frequent, have consequences above and beyond the sectors that are directly affected.

"All non-financial risk ends up also being a credit risk," she said.

So, she said that "future development challenges will not be resolved with money alone."

The non-financial factors are in many cases more important for the success of projects than the financial ones, the experts emphasized, given that they create more certainty for investors, which allows the financing gaps to be closed.

Banco Santander Brasil, in this regard, noted that the ever more frequent droughts in the region could affect the ability of borrowers to repay.

Planning is fundamental to ensure the long-term efficiency of these projects.

That is the case with the Waze company, which each day in accord with an agreement with IDB Invest shares in real time on its Web site geo-referential data on traffic conditions, thus helping planning and investing in transport systems and reducing congestion, a project in which the Autopistas Urbanas (AUSA) company in Argentina is participating.

IDB Invest, a member of the Inter-American Development Banking Group, is a multilateral development bank tasked with promoting the economic development of its member countries via the private sector, and it currently has a portfolio of more than $12.1 billion in assets under management.

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