Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

The Return of Inflation

by Shannon K. O'Neil Sunday, May 6, 2007

The one area of real triumph for market-oriented reforms in Latin America was inflation. Unlike the uneven record on poverty, inequality, and economic volatility, structural adjustment and austerity programs of the early 1990s ended high and hyper inflation. These programs brought the Latin American average from 235% per year in the early 1990s to less than 8% by the turn of the century. Low and steady inflation has been a crucial element for attracting both foreign and domestic investment, increasing economic production, and encouraging the economic growth of the last several years. Read more »

Pardon the appearance…

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, May 3, 2007

A quick note to readers: this blog will be undergoing some design upgrades in the coming days. If something looks different or temporarily broken, that’s why. Posts and comments will continue to display and work while we do this even if the layout looks different. Thanks for your interest and comments in the meantime.

Mexico's New Credit markets

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Yesterday Mexico’s microfinance group Compartamos, backed by Accion International and the IFC, went public on the Mexico stock exchange. Where once only the largest companies and wealthiest elites had access, credit markets are now increasingly receptive to middle and even lower class Mexicans. The fantastic growth of mortgage-backed security industry in Mexico since 2000 has made house and even car financing increasingly available to the middle class. Government policy has pushed these changes, but it has also come from the market itself  “ specifically the quest of Mexico’s internationally-owned banks to develop new customers and new profits. Read more »

Demography enters the immigration debate

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, April 19, 2007

The importance of demography for U.S. immigration is finally getting its due. Recent Congressional testimony by Dowell Myers highlights the effects of baby boomer retirement on the U.S. labor market, and the importance of legal migration given these shifts. A recent study by Mitra Toosi at the Bureau of Labor Statistics develops projections for the U.S. labor market in more detail. She adds the interesting fact that not only will baby boomers retire, but women’s participation rates in the workforce have stabilized (at near 60%). That means that unlike in the past, there isn’t a large untapped “surplus” of native Americans to meet growing labor demands. Read more »

Immigration number games

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, April 12, 2007

Following up on my op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, I talked with Lou Dobbs last night (see transcript) about the issues of demographic change and immigration in the United States. In my appearance and in earlier shows, Lou lays out various numbers regarding legal immigration – saying that 2 million people come into the country each year. But looking at the reports from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), this 2 million figure is total visas – many of which are for the same person year after year. These are not all new additions to the annual workforce or population. But even if they were, these 880,000 for 2005 (see Table 3 of the DHS report on Temporary Admissions of Nonimmigrants), this is only 0.5% of our current workforce of nearly 150 million people. Read more »

Mexico's Social Security reform

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, April 2, 2007

Mexico finally passed a reform of its public sector workers’ social security system, the ISSSTE system. This system covers 3 million people, or roughly 10% of the insured population in Mexico.

Calderon, unlike Fox or even Zedillo before him, was able to cobble together a coalition of support with for the initiative, including many members of the PRI as well as the deputies of the New Alliance party, headed by former PRI heavy weight and powerful leader of the teacher’s union Elba Ester Gordillo. Gordillo was a key figure in the success of this reform as teachers comprise half of ISSSTE’s clientele. Read more »

Why Venezuela and Bolivia aren't leading a region-wide trend

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s President Evo Morales are closely linked, and many fear they represent a new trend away from democracy, open markets, and the United States in Latin America. Overlooked are substantial differences between these two countries  and from their Latin American neighbors. Read more »

Venezuela's turn toward socialism: Hugo Chavez plans to nationalize CANTV and EDC

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, January 11, 2007

On Monday January 8th, two days before his inauguration to a third term, Hugo Chavez announced that he would deepen his socialist or Bolivarian revolution by nationalizing companies that are deemed to be strategic to the national interest. Specifically, he singled out the telephone company CANTV and the Caracas utility company, EDC. Since both are at least partially owned by U.S. companies (Verizon and AES respectively), this shocked not only Venezuela’s domestic financial markets but also Wall Street. Read more »