Briefing / Global
The challenges facing Peru’s new president and the resurgence of Paraguay and its capital.
Washington State [Jay Inslee]
As governor of the state that is home to Microsoft and Amazon, Jay Inslee might be expected to adopt the language of Silicon Valley idealists who act as though technology defies economic organisation. Instead he manages technology jobs as though they are a normal part of the labour sector.
He has developed a smart apprenticeship programme with big technology companies and adjusted educational standards so that computer science is treated equally alongside other sciences. He had an easy ride to re-election and then pushed to win support to fund expansion of Seattle’s light-rail network.
The question now for Inslee: will one of the nation’s most popular Democratic governors stay in Olympia to see through his agenda or will he be a contender for cabinet?
Sink or swim
Peru [Pedro Pablo Kuczynski]
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s victory in Peru’s presidential elections in June triggered a surge of optimism among normally cynical voters. The former World Bank economist, 78, is now bent on tackling a series of national challenges, with 2017 likely to prove make-or-break as he negotiates with a Congress dominated by the supporters of his opponent Keiko Fujimari, daughter of imprisoned former leader Alberto.
In his campaign Kuczynski promised to attack Peru’s endemic corruption. He has fired 39 of the country’s 86 police generals and is now targeting the judiciary. With the Fujimoristas fighting all attempts to curb their power, the coming months will be critical for the president’s ambitions to clean up public institutions.
Modernise the economy
Peru’s growth next year is likely to hit 4.1 per cent – positive by most international standards but no big deal in a country that has boomed more than any other in Latin America since 2000. Peru is a mining superpower and significant timber exporter. But with commodity prices and Chinese demand down it needs to diversify its economy, slash high informality rates and improve infrastructure. Kuczynski is pushing through economic reforms that will either bear fruit or crash and burn in 2017.
Peru’s final challenge will be to further boost its tourism industry. Pre-Columbian archaeological treasures, spectacular landscapes and a culinary renaissance have seen visitors steadily increase to 3.5 million per year. Kuczynski wants to double that and attract more “millionaire widows”, which will require distributing visitors to Inca and pre-Inca ruins around the country, rather than just Machu Picchu.
An impoverished nation off the tourist and business radar: that’s how Paraguay used to be viewed. But while nearby Brazil and Argentina have struggled in recent years, Paraguay has rallied – and that resilience can be seen in its capital, Asunción.
Construction is booming, with hotels, shops and houses springing up in exclusive areas, and neighbouring countries are looking to establish a foothold in the market. Of course, Asunción is not without its problems: the wealth divide is visible.
On the bench
Michelle Bachelet, who has ruled Chile for eight of the past 12 years, is barred from running for re-election. Not that it would have made a difference: she’s unpopular, which is a shame considering how well she did first time around. The right, which won back power after her first term, will be hoping to repeat the trick.
Bill de Blasio was never favourite to win New York’s mayoral race in 2013 but his “tale of two cities” struck a chord. Problem is he hasn’t had much joy in reducing the inequality he highlighted. Expect a strong campaign against him in the 2017 Democratic mayoral primary.
Farewell, Chris Christie. He hoped to be in the White House by now: the image of the governor who gets things done and doesn’t mind working with Democrats was tailored to appeal to a national electorate. Alas, his bullying caught up with him, as shown in the unfolding Bridgegate trial. New Jersey will hope for a cleaner, fresher governor.