This welcome publication of the Paris-based OECD (whose membership now includes Brazil, Chile, and Mexico and whose new secretary-general is the Mexican José Ángel Gurría) does not actually offer predictions for 2008 but rather is the first of a promising series of compiled essays exploring the critical political-economy issues facing Latin American development. Inspired by the European experience, especially the Spanish success story, the intellectual thrust is decidedly pragmatic, rational, and humanistic -- very much enlightened social democracy. The lead chapter explores fiscal policy and calls for "better, fairer, more" taxation and expenditures; whereas in Latin America, taxes and fiscal transfers have little impact on income distribution, in Europe they combine to dramatically reduce social inequality. The chapter on multinationals admires the dynamic emergence of multilatinas (Latin multinationals), such as Carlos Slim's Telmex and its cellular-phone partner, América Móvil, but calls for stronger independent regulators and more competition to benefit lower-income consumers. Implicit in all of this economics, it would seem, is the hope that center-left governing coalitions can overcome recalcitrant interests in the region's powerful private sectors and middle-class unions to create new democratic states that are more efficient, more just, and hence more legitimate in the eyes of their citizens.
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