In a visit to the University of Miami organized by the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald last week, newly elected Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski discussed the need for diversifying the Andean nation’s economy and the future of Latin America.
Hosted at the University’s Braman Miller Center for Jewish Student Life and moderated in Spanish by The Herald’s Andres Oppenheimer, the annual Americas Conference Series reflected University of Miami President Julio Frenk’s hopes and aspirations for the University as it approaches its centennial.
“The University of Miami is in a unique position to become the hemispheric university, in other words, the pole that unites the huge intellectual capital of the entire region with collaborative platforms aimed at finding solutions and with resources for innovation,” Frenk said in his opening remarks.
It was fitting for the series, which focuses on discussing economic, political and public policy issues facing the U.S. and Latin America, to feature Kuczynski. Nicknamed PPK for his initials, he is an Oxford- and Princeton-educated economist with decades of experience at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and in private banking on Wall Street and in Miami. He also has served as Peru’s prime minister, economy and finance minister, mining minister, and head of the Central Reserve Bank.
Attended by Latin American business leaders and members of the media and broader South Florida community, the discussion focused on Kuczynski’s seasoned perspective on how to continue growing the Peruvian economy and make it another beacon of opportunity in Latin America. Kuczynski, whose second vice president is Mercedes Araoz, an alumna of UM’s School of Business Administration, called for greater investments in key sectors including tourism, agribusiness, and infrastructure to support irrigation projects and the raw materials industry.
“We need to have a diversified economy,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if that includes raw materials. To think that exporting raw materials is bad is a huge mistake. Look at Canada and Australia. But raw materials or not, it should still be diversified.”
Kuczynski echoed his call from his presidential campaign to lessen bureaucratic hurdles. “We need to allow the economy to grow and not let government get in the way of growth.”
He also fielded questions about Venezuela and Cuba and their respective changing political, social, and economic landscapes. Most vocal about Peru’s continental neighbor, Kuczynski called for the need for a humanitarian aid group, composed of Peru and other Latin American countries, to provide Venezuelans with much-needed food, health care, and other basic services which so many have so little access to.
“From one day to the next, the country will face total collapse and there will be blood in the streets,” warned Kuczynski. “But, Peru is a middle-income country,” he said, “and this can’t be done without Brazil, the leading Latin American economy.”
Yet Kuczynski expressed optimism about the future and the importance of opportunities for starting over. “We’ve hit rock bottom before and I know we will get back up.”