A resource-based strategy for technological dynamism and social inclusion for Latin America: a discussion in the light of the Mexican experience
Vera-Cruz, José Alexandre Oliveira
MetadataShow full item record
Latin America faces today a crossroads, as the advances in the globalization impose the need to redefine its position in the world economy for the next decades. After the reform process of the late 1980s and 1990s was implemented some Latin American countries showed important growth results in a range of dimensions: education indexes, income per capita, and exports competitiveness in specific world markets. Also there has been significant advancement in democratization and organization of the civil society. In institutional terms, the level of sophistication of the NSI increased considerably; there have been important advances in terms of the variety of agents and the deployment of their functions. Many countries have improved their level of industrialization and today they are considered to be middle income economies. However the growth performance of most countries in the 1990s has been rather disappointing. Besides this unsatisfactory growth performance, equity aspects and social needs constitutes important worrying characteristic of contemporary trends in the region. The limited achievements of Latin American economies as compared to the success of several Asian economies have highlighted the urgent need that the region have to start building upon a new way of thinking its strengths, and built a new insertion in the world economy. But, what are the analytical tools that it can count upon? The NSI and RSI approaches have been broadly diffused, as well as the ‘fitting’ innovation policies to strengthen these systems. In both cases the analytical frameworks were though for other context, the central economies environment, and there have been difficulties in adapting them to the region’s conditions. Partially this explains the poor achievement obtained and makes clear the need that Latin America has to rethink all these ideas from its own perspective and conditions. Latin America has important endowments of natural resources and many countries have specialized on manufacturing sectors and got position in world markets. However, natural resources have been mostly seen as a source of funding manufacturing activities and industrialization; to the extreme, this has been seen as a discouragement to look for alternatives for development due to the success of raw materials export. In the last decades, after the crisis of the import industrialization model, there has been an increasing attention to the role of natural resources as an alternative for Latin America. In this direction, Katz (2000) argues that Latin-American countries have restructured in the direction of their underlying ‘natural’ (static) comparative advantages, making better use of their high quality natural resources (mines, forests, gas and petroleum, agriculture) as well as of the abundant, relatively cheap and unskilled labor. These changes in production specialization came hand-in-hand with concomitant changes in the trade specialization. Referring to changes in innovation systems, Arocena and Sutz (2005) argument that advances of knowledge in biological fields have provided a new basis for transformations in the production of goods and services. This may apply to the emergence of innovation systems based on life sciences (bio-innovation systems), which are connected with agriculture and health services. However, until now there has not been an explicit strategy for development considering natural resources. In the last few years, has emerged a new perspective on their contribution to development (de Ferranti, Perry, Lederman and Maloney 2001 Bortagaray 2007, Perez 2008), the most articulated proposal of a strategy for Latin America has been presented by Perez (2008). Recently, Carlota Perez presented the document titled “A vision for Latin America: a resource-based strategy for technological dynamism and social inclusion”, elaborated for ECLA. This document reflects about Latin America’s opportunities during the current deployment stage of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) paradigm, and the installation stage of a new paradigm, which seems to be oriented towards biotechnology, nanotechnology, new materials and new energy sources. It suggests a dual development strategy for Latin American countries – “dual integrated model” – based on science, technology and innovation (STI) for building robust resource based-processing industries and specializing on high added value products. Such a model integrates a top-down strategy of development, which aims at achieving competitiveness on world markets for specialized natural resources-based products, with a bottom-up strategy, which seeks to generate employment and identify and promote wealth-creation activities amongst localities. As it has been broadly discussed, each paradigm implies not only technological change but also new ways of thinking or a new common sense towards efficiency and innovation, new ways of acting and new institutions (Dosi 1982, Perez 1985 and 2002). In this sense, in order to establish a strategy that benefits from the deployment of a paradigm or takes advantage of the installation stage, it requires the emergence of new social norms and new forms of agents’ behavior. In this proposal of a dual strategy, social norms related to STI and forms of behavior acquire a particular relevance. Social norms are built and change at a slow pace. They are inserted into the social systems that operate inside society, and even more, they influence the forms of behavior from academics, entrepreneurs and other agents, and even society’s perception regarding the STI community.3 The behavior of agents obeys to social norms, and therefore, while facing paradigm shifts, and even other changes of minor depth, agents tend to reproduce old ways of doing things and observe difficulties in changing their behaviors. Social norms are influenced by existing incentives. In this way, policy should generate a range of incentives consistent with the paradigm, in order to foster new opportunities, and stimulate change in agents’ behavior. Difficulties to generate a new coherent incentives structure could restrict the shift towards new behaviors, and therefore, towards the diffusion of new technologies and the taking advantage of a new window of opportunity. This is why a reflection oriented to taking advantage of a window of opportunity should include the issue of the incentives structure required to induce change amongst agents’ behavior and promote new ways of thinking and acting. There is limited knowledge regarding the influence of public policy over the shift in established social norms and the behavior of the STI community. The aim of this paper is to contribute to the discussion of the dual strategy based on natural resources for Latin America proposed by Carlota Perez (2008). It focuses on the required changes of the existing incentives to promote new behaviors among STI agents according to the mentioned strategy, and on other issues related to the viability of such strategy, such as leadership and the building of consensus and governance. This reflection draws on the Mexican case. The Mexican experience is interesting for different reasons: there are abundant natural resources and important technological capabilities in resource based processing industries, also it has been built capabilities in other manufacturing industries; there has also been a huge effort devoted to the formation of human resources, and recently, STI is flourishing in several regions of the country. Additionally, since 2001 a change has been introduced in the design of STI policy oriented to accelerating the building of technological capabilities and stimulating innovation. The experience of designing and implementing this STI policy and the problems that it has been confronted allow the identification of some caveats associated with the design and implementation of a new strategy. The content of this document is as follows: after this introduction section 2 raises some doubts about the applicability of the current innovation policy framework to DC context; section 3 presents a brief description of Carlota Perez´s proposal of the dual strategy of development based on natural resources; section 4 synthesizes efforts that have taken place in Mexico during the last decade to design and implement a new STI strategy; section 5 reflects over such experience on topics related to the structure of incentives and the behavior of agents, the definition of leadership, the conditions to ensure the governance of the National System of Innovation (NSI) and the construction of consensus between agents. Section 6 contains final reflections.