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Staff writer

Latin American countries have the political will to stay on course with their economic and social reforms, as demonstrated by their swift response to the Asian financial crisis, the head of the Inter-American Development Bank said Monday.

IDB President Enrique Iglesias said in an interview that the Latin American region has made great progress in securing stability and reducing inflation, making it increasingly open to investment and trade. “We see the Asian crisis having some impact on our economies, but you see the countries acting quickly, acting very responsively to keep the course of action to defend their currencies and their present systems. “That means the political will (to preserve stability) is there and therefore, I believe the reforms in Latin America are here to stay,” Iglesias said.

Iglesias is currently in Tokyo to attend a two-day symposium that begins today to promote economic ties between Japan and Latin America. The seminar will touch on such issues as assessment of growth in the region and developments in regional integration and natural resources.

Although it is the fifth such symposium, it will be the first to be held after a nine-year gap during which Latin America battled to restore stability to its economies and provide a better environment with which to woo investors. “This is a completely new Latin America, and we can call it a kind of silent revolution — this is the Latin America that will be described (at the symposium,) as one of the most dynamic emerging in the world,” he stressed.

Concerning the argument that the Asian financial and currency turmoil was caused by the region opening itself to global markets too rapidly, Iglesias acknowledged that the issue is controversial and an area of discussion both in academic and political circles.

While Latin American countries have generally chosen to rapidly open their commercial markets, there have been different views in terms of opening to capital markets, with some nations “more prudent” than others, he observed.

Iglesias also remained optimistic that his bank, one of several global multinational financial institutions, would continue to play a vital role in the region despite the economic growth experienced by individual countries.

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