Latin America is set to witness eight elections this year, including four presidential elections in Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil. We recently traveled to the region to research investment opportunities there and to get a sense of the ‘mood on the ground’. We came away with a general impression of optimism, particularly in Brazil, and we think this will spread to other countries in Latin America.
We had visited Santiago, Chile, and so I was shocked and saddened to hear of the impact of the powerful earthquake that hit central Chile shortly after I left. I have an apartment in Chile and although the building was not destroyed and is structurally sound, cracks formed in various parts of the unit. Since copper and other minerals are Chile’s major exports, it was important to learn that the mining industry in the north of the country was not impacted by the earthquake.
It is now two years since the Bear Stearns bail-out, which set the stage for the global financial crisis triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, another established name in the business.
I was in our office in Shanghai, China, on March 15, 2008, when I heard about the Bear Stearns’ fire sale to JP Morgan Chase. My initial reaction was that the timing around the Bear Stearns decision was probably unfortunate. I thought that the deed was sudden and done in a moment of panic. It would have been ideal for the government to have allowed for a more orderly process so that clients and related parties of Bear Stearns who had legitimate interests and holdings would not be disadvantaged.
The Dead Sea
We arrived in Amman, Jordan to search for investments. We originally invested in Jordan about 10 years ago, and now with our frontier markets strategies, Jordan is an appropriate place for a revisit. Amman certainly was a changed city since our last visit with many more skyscrapers and visibly newer developments.
Jordan is a modern democratic constitutional monarchy with the King as head of state. It has a highly educated population of about 6.1 million with a growing middle class. The government’s focus has been on economic reform and growth. The role played by a good education system has been significant in the development of Jordan from a predominantly agrarian to an industrialized nation. Jordan’s education system ranks number one in the Arab world, and the country is among the region’s highest spenders on education, investing more than 20% of its GDP in education.