H.E. Mr. Rubén Morales Monroy
Guatemalan Minister of Economy
H.E. Mr. Rubén Morales Monroy, Guatemalan Minister of Economy, sat down with JAPAN and the WORLD to discuss his expectations from his current visit to Japan.
—You have recently attained the position of Minister of Economy, what plans do you have to further develop Guatemala’s economy?
The most important goal is how to change the economy of the country, because for the past 10 years, it has had a 3.5% GDP growth rate and we are trying to increase that to 5%. In order to achieve that, we have to modify our policies with two pillars as the mainstream: investment in infrastructure and investment in a variety of sectors. We would like to achieve this by 2021. We will be working with other government institutions, like the Central Bank, in order to monitor the growth of the economy.
—What do you feel is unique about Guatemala that will help it succeed economically?
In the area of investment in infrastructure, we have 2 important areas – one of them being the development of 9 cities called “intermediate cities”. These cities are growing and receiving people from rural areas. We need to invest in urbanization and facilitate services in order to have better working and living conditions. This investment costs around 3 billion US dollars. This is the reason why I am here in Japan; looking for investment and cooperation with the Japanese government and private sector.
Another area we want to invest in is strategic investment with industrial parks. For that we will need to decentralize the economy from the capital city to other regions of Guatemala.
Another advantage that we have is a surplus of young people ready to be trained and to work, especially in the service sector.
—What economic challenges, in your opinion, does Guatemala face?
As I mentioned earlier, the young population is our strength but also our challenge. There are 1 million young people currently unemployed, whom we need to engage in economic activities.
Public basic education in Guatemala is free but secondary and higher education are less extended. Therefore, we recognize a huge need for training programs, especially in technical skills, all over the country. We are also working now on a budget to expand secondary public education.
—What sort of economic connection does Guatemala have with Japan?
The quality investment, high standards and skilled human resource that Japan offers is something of our interest. This would make a tremendous improvement in the quality of life not only in Guatemala but also in Latin America.
The young population is our strength but also our challenge. There are 1 million young people currently unemployed, whom we need to engage in economic activities.
I just met with the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kentaro Sonoura, to work with what we call 3 Js: JICA, JETRO and JBIC. By doing this, we see a great opportunity for both countries to boost investment. We have already some programs with JICA but we think it is not enough in relation to technical education and training. We do not have a JETRO office in Guatemala, so we are now working on that and if we do not succeed in having a representation of JETRO in our country, then we will sign the Memorandum of Understanding to have more related business investments and trade between Japan and Guatemala. JBIC, on the other hand, would facilitate financing of the investment in the infrastructure sector. JICA would help in planning the development of the 9 cities.
—What are your expectations from this visit to Japan?
To obtain technical assistance to develop infrastructural opportunities in Guatemala and to invest in sectors such as: urbanization, highways, ports, airports, metro in Guatemala city, amongst others. For the private sector, there are opportunities in agriculture and manufacturing, and for us, at this stage of our economical growth, increasing productivity that will benefit not only Guatemala but the entire region as well. We are currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with South Korea. We have already signed it with Taiwan. For the moment, there are some Japanese companies doing business in Guatemala, distributors of Japanese products and exporters of coffee, among others. However, there is still a need to improve the relation we have with the Japanese private sector. The bilateral relationship between Japan and Guatemala was established in 1935.
We are also working on increasing the number of tourists from Japan to Guatemala. We bear similar characteristics to Japan such as old culture. We have around 2000 archeological sites that are some of the most impressive among Mayan settlements. The country has up to 22 different languages and ethnical groups and an amazing biodiversity. Guatemala has the most number of volcanoes in the region, with 32 spread along its territory, 4 of them are active. Guatemala is located along the Ring of Fire, an almost perfect circle that goes across the globe.