2021: The future will not be as expected

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The assessment of a different year and the challenges for the next.

Juan E. Notaro

Executive President of FONPLATA – Development Bank

I am writing this article a few hours after the last meeting of the year of the Executive Board of FONPLATA – Development Bank, in which we usually review the achievements of the last twelve months.

Apart from the many strides made in our regular areas of work, which I will mention below, most of our activity in 2020 was strongly marked by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health emergency and its devastating economic consequences forced us to be creative, fast, and flexible. It was about taking care of health and protecting the economy as much as possible, without stopping our development projects.

Looking now at the larger picture and based on the thoughts I share in this column on a monthly basis, I realize that the events that took place before the coronavirus crisis, in some way, prepared us to respond in a better way.

At the year’s start, together with Pope Francis, scholars, and notables from international organizations and financial institutions from all over the world, I took part in the Forum "New Forms of Solidarity: Towards Fraternal Inclusion, Integration, and Innovation”.

In that meeting, we shared our perspective on the need of including solidarity in the development strategies, promoting inclusion and equality, and overcoming some historic injustices perpetrated for too long a time. 

A few weeks later, in an integration forum that we organized together with LatinFinance, I witnessed the commitment of countries, institutions and professionals of our region to start initiatives to strengthen integration among all those nations. 

We could hardly imagine at that time that the common perspective, the joint undertaking, and the inclusive future to which we committed in that event, would be challenged just a few weeks later, when the pandemic was declared. 

The challenges posed by 2020 were neither few nor easy. But the worst was yet to come. Lives being lost worldwide, economies stalled, and fear and despair spread as fast as the virus.

Nonetheless, the virus also gave a new dimension to the importance of solidarity and imposed a new and much more ambitious work agenda on the development banks. 

FONPLATA – Development Bank focused on the two fronts most impacted by the pandemic: health and economy. We created a US$1 billion support line for economic recovery and approved a US$120 million rapid disbursement fund for the health emergency.

At this year’s end we have far exceeded, for the eighth year in a row, the expected credit disbursements and approvals, which has contributed to maintain our credit rating as a trusted financial institution. 

Likewise, we have reorganized our portfolio focusing on its contribution to the sustainable development goals. All this was accomplished with almost the whole staff working remotely, without losing the agility, responsiveness, and commitment to the challenging agendas of our countries.

Thus, I am optimistic regarding to two of our strategic goals for 2021: improve our credit rating to provide a better service and achieve the accession of new member countries.

However, there is still much to be done to overcome the challenges left by 2020. The consequences of the pandemic, the economic recovery, and the progress towards vaccination are the priorities for the coming months.

For these tasks, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay can continue to count on us. The future will not be as we expected twelve months ago, but, if we let solidarity, equality and justice lead us, I trust that it will be better. 

Much better. 

Text originally published in the monthly column of Juan E. Notaro in the Huffington Post.