Crime and the Private Sector in Central America

By Pablo Maldonado

April 26, 2012   |   0 comments

Pablo Maldonado (Washington, DC)

INCAE, the famed Central America-based business school, the World Bank and the Wilson Center hosted a gathering on April 19 to discuss the crime epidemic in the region and its impact on the business climate, investment, and perspectives going forward.

Heavyweights–Undersecretary Maria Otero and the Banks’ President Robert Zoellick –were keynote speakers.

Harold  Sibaja, of Creative Associates, was an invited panelist; he presented on USAID’s Youth Alliance Program, a neighborhood-by-neighborhood effort to reduce crime and violence in El Salvador and Central America. (For more information about this project, please click here).

I share a few thoughts about the gathering, which focused principally on the views and perspectives of the private sector on crime and violence:

  • Crime and violence considerations deter investment.
  • Private sector investors have demand for an educated workforce, and at this point are forced to consider regions other than Central America. – The private sector views investment at the regional level; individual countries are too small to be considered individual targets. The regional security environment is hence as important as the security of individual countries.
  • The private sector, individually or in the aggregate, does not seem to know how to effectively contribute to the solving of the security and violence dilemma. Some companies have discrete programs which to not appear to demonstrate potential for impact or scale. The absence of a blue print for organized, coherent private sector engagement in crime and violence represents an opportunity of sorts.

Milena Grillo, a panelist representing Panama’s Fundacion Paniamor, spoke eloquently about the exacerbating contribution of domestic violence to the grim violence situation in the region.

Colombian consultant Isaac de Leon Beltran presented on the importance of mapping criminal activity at the local level, and on how to tackle crime by elevating the operating costs of organized crime.

It was a pleasure to see World Bank’s Rodrigo Serrano-Berthet and many friends from the INCAE network.

Pablo Maldonado is Chief Operating Officer of Creative Associates International.