This exercise in strategic foresight considers the factors that will have the most influence on the future of development in Latin America: the quality of education; the level of investment in infrastructure; and the evolution of democratic governance, especially in the areas of transparency and accountability, fiscal reform, regulatory efficiency, and social inclusion. Much also hinges on the evolving political attitudes of the growing middle classes: Will they be satisfied with gradual reform, or will they give in to the populist temptation? Among the more interesting findings is the fact that the region’s current demographic dividend—the high ratio of working people to dependents—will cease to pay off by the 2040s, when aging populations will require sharp gains in labor productivity in order to sustain prosperity. In one best-case scenario, the region would up its game in scientific innovation and export diversification. Another potential bright spot: climate change could transform South America into the breadbasket of the world. The region will also likely be blessed with a relative absence of ethnic and sectarian fissures, international terrorism, and interstate conflict, even though narcotics trafficking will persist.
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