Enrique V. Iglesias

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Enrique V. Iglesias

The Uruguayan economist, banker, and public official Enrique V. Iglesias (born 1930) was active in economic development in Uruguay and Latin America for many years before becoming president of the Inter-American Development Bank in 1988. He also served in the United Nations and other international organizations involved in economic development, energy, and environmental issues.

A man of humble origins—the son of an immigrant Spanish grocer—Enrique V. Iglesias was born in the northwest province of Asturias, Spain, in 1930. He later became a naturalized citizen of Uruguay. Enrique Iglesias attended the University of the Republic of Uruguay and majored in economics and business administration, graduating in 1953. He went on to pursue specialized programs of study in the United States and France. After finishing his studies, Iglesias worked in the private banking sector before he initiated his long career of public service.

At the University of the Republic of Uruguay, Enrique V. Iglesias held the Chair on Economic Development and served as director of the Institute of Economics from 1952 to 1967. He also served on the board of the Latin American Social Sciences Council (CLACSO) and took part in various training courses organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Institute for Latin American Integration (INTAL), and the Latin American Institute for Economic and Social Planning (ILPES). He joined the board of directors of ILPES in 1965, was its chairman from 1967 to 1972, and served as interim director general in 1977-1978.

A Banker in Uruguay

In 1954 Iglesias initiated his career in the private sector as managing director of a bank, the Union de Bancos del Uruguay. From 1962 to 1966 he served as technical director of Uruguay's National Planning Office, where he was responsible for developing and implementing the country's first National Economic and Social Development Plan. Overlapping with his duties at the Planning Office, Iglesias was Uruguay's delegate, from 1964 to 1967, to the Conferences of the Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA) and to ECLAC. He was also the representative of his country on the Inter-American Committee on the Alliance for Progress (ICAP).

Iglesias was president of Uruguay's Central Bank from 1966 to 1968, during which time he directed various missions at national and international levels on behalf of his government. During the next three years, from 1968 to 1971, he headed the group of experts who collaborated with Raul Prebisch on an extensive study of Latin America's economic situation, carried out under the auspices of the Inter-American Development Bank. In 1970 he headed a mission to the Venezuelan government agency CORDIPLAN to provide technical advice in regard to planning.

An International Public Official

On March 27, 1972, Iglesias was named executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, first with the rank of United Nations Assistant Secretary General, and later with the rank of Under Secretary General. He held his post at ECLAC until February 1985, after which he served as Uruguay's Minister of External Relations from March 1, 1985, until he became president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on April 1, 1988. While serving as minister he chaired the meeting of ministers convened to launch the Uruguay Round of multilateral negotiations within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). At these talks he was labeled "the star performer" by the Financial Times for saving the negotiations after a 30-hour marathon bargaining session.

He was a member of the Inter-American Committee on the Alliance for Progress' panel of expert advisers. He served as president of the International Society for Development and a member of the North-South Round Table on Energy into the 1990s. He was also a member of the board of trustees of the Institute for Ibero-American Cooperation, of Spain, and in 1982 he was honored with the Prince of Asturias award for Ibero-American cooperation for his contribution towards greater understanding between the peoples of Spain and Latin America and the rest of the international community.

As a dedicated environmentalist, Enrique Iglesias served as senior adviser to the 1972 Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, and then as secretary general of the United Nations Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from February to August 1981. He was chairman of the United Nations Inter-Agency Group on the Development of Renewable Sources of Energy, as well as chairman of the advisory panel on energy on the Brundtland Commission in 1981. In 1982 he was named by the United Nations Secretary General as special adviser on new and renewable sources of energy to the Director General for Development and International Economic Cooperation. From 1984 to 1986 he chaired the Energy Advisory Panel for the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission). His deep interest in the environment was reflected in the agenda of the Inter-American Development Bank after he assumed his presidency.

Heading the IDB

Iglesias worked hard to create what he called "a big bank" to meet the region's needs. He also tried to streamline the IDB and make it a more "efficient" bank, giving it the flexibility it needed to make a major contribution in the 1990s. Under Iglesias' tenure, the IDB saw drastic cuts in personnel. In addition, he tried to bring the bank into closer association with Bretton Woods institutions.

Iglesias was determined that the IDB make an impact on Latin America's overriding issue, the debt. He wanted to increase the volume of lending and to move into new lending areas. Another issue on the top of his agenda was the environment, an area where Iglesias had plenty of international experience.

In 1994, calling it a model for programs worldwide, the Inter-American Development Bank and Brazilian officials launched a $20-million project to aid Brazil's growing number of neglected, homeless children. The nationwide program was a departure for the bank, which until a few years ago supported only transportation and energy projects. In recent years, the bank had branched into environmental programs, such as sewer construction and the cleanup of Rio's Guanabara Bay.

The biggest achievements of 1995 were Argentine and Mexican resistance to financial crisis, Brazilian stabilization, and growth in the rest of the region, according to the IDB. However, the multilateral organism must confront new challenges for the future: increasing soft loans to the poorest regional nations, funding infrastructure works in the regional blocs and drawing a lesson from the collapse of the Mexican peso in 1994—the so-called "Tequila effect." Iglesias talked of the region's achievements in 1995, but warned that the IDB would be proposing a "controversial" fiscal control proposal in the meeting on controlling capital flight. Iglesias said that the world economic agencies need to pursue policies that are a change "from charity to empowerment." He committed the IDB to some $500 million over the next five years to "the little bancitos." Iglesias said IADB lending had focused on social projects and reform in 1996, emphasizing urban development, public health and education.

Iglesias met with World Bank president James Wolfensohn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Michel Camdessus, the president, secretary and assistant secretary of CELAM, and the head of the Social Pastoral of Brazilian Bishops, the first joint financial-Catholic gathering convened by the Justice and Peace Pontifical Council. Iglesias also met with Columbia's new foreign minister, Maria Emma Mejia, in 1996.

In January 1997, the IDB and the Mexican government signed contracts for loan guarantees worth $915 million. More than half of the total was earmarked for social projects including a program of modernization of the labor market. Meanwhile, $365 million dollars was slated for a hydraulic sanitation project in the Mexico. Iglesias expressed his organization's confidence in Mexico, saying, "We have always believed in this country." Iglesias predicted that Mexico would make an economic growth of 5 percent in 1997.

Iglesias is a man of great personal energy, who is said to have to work to relax. He is an aficionado of operas and tries to squeeze in time to pursue this pastime. He is fluent in four languages—English, French, Portuguese, and Italian—in addition to his native Spanish. He is a devout Catholic.

Further Reading

Enrique Iglesias wrote numerous articles and papers on Latin American and Uruguayan economic issues, on such subjects as the capital market, Uruguay's exchange system, the nature and scope of external financing problems, the struggle of multilateralism, and Inter-American Development Bank policies in the 1960s. He was also the author of Latin America on the Threshold of the 1980s; The Energy Challenge; and Development and Equity: the Challenge of the 1980s.

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