Uruguay’s uncommon strengths and development dilemmas

Picture of the president of Uruguay in an official capacity
President Tabare Vazquez’s left-wing coalition may hold on to the presidency but lose its parliamentary majority in the next elections (source: dpa)
  • Uruguay is a model democracy and highly developed society with ambitions to play an international role
  • To afford its storied social safety net and transparent institutions in the future, it must reinvent its economy
  • The country’s ruling progressives seem unsure how to meet multiplying economic and social challenges

Just over a century ago, Uruguay set out to establish a social welfare system that would make it the region’s envy as “the Switzerland of Latin America.”

Today, its role in the global community rests on the soft power foundation of this, now fraying, social welfare state, its strong democratic institutions and its remarkable stability. Uruguay scores perfect tens on the indices of civil liberties and electoral process, matched only by Norway and New Zealand, in the World Bank’s rule of law index. It ranks just below Chile in Latin America, far above much larger countries in the region. How it capitalizes on these strengths in the hemisphere and the global arena will depend on its internal stability and the capacity of its leaders to reform the economy.

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