Concentration of Economic and Political Power in Latin America and the Caribbean

Hosted by the Latin America and Caribbean Centre and the International Inequalities Institute

Online (via Zoom)


Dr Marcela Meléndez

Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean, UNDP

Professor Kirsten Sehnbruch

British Academy Global Professor, LSE International Inequalities Institute

Professor Jean-Paul Faguet

Professor of the Political Economy of Development, LSE Department of International Development


Professor Gareth Jones

Director, LSE Latin America and Caribbean Centre

The UNDP Regional Human Development Report 2021 argues that a common factor behind the Latin America and the Caribbean high-inequality low-growth trap is the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a few.

The report argues that monopoly power and political power are two sides of the same coin and controlling the former may help contain the latter. But how does the story of market power in LAC differ from the rest of the world? And should we be concerned about the role of other economic elites with power for policy interference like organised labour? We will discuss these and other related questions on a topic of significant concern for the region's future.

Meet our speaker

Marcela Meléndez is the Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean at UNDP. She has a PhD in Economics from Yale University. Before joining UNDP in 2019, Marcela was Managing Partner at ECONESTUDIO, an economics consulting firm renowned for its contributions to the public policy debate in Colombia. Between 2010 and 2013, she co-directed the “Equity and Social Mobility Mission” by invitation of the Colombian government, and in 2017 she was part of Colombia’s “Experts’ Commission for the Review of Public Expenditure and Investment”. Marcela is an applied microeconomist with a strong focus on public policy evaluation and design. At UNDP, she leads the production of analytical content to support decision making in the LAC region. She is the lead author of the recently launched UNDP LAC Regional Human Development Report 2021, Trapped: High Inequality and Low Growth in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Read more on our discussants and chair

Kirsten Sehnbruch is a British Academy Global Professor at the International Inequalities Institute of the London School of Economics. Her research focuses principally on conceptualizing and measuring the quality of employment in developing countries, and extends to Latin American labour markets, social policy, and development policy. Currently, she is also undertaking a large research project on informal political institutions at the macro, meso and micro level in Chile. Her articles have been published by World Development, the Cambridge Journal of Economics, Development and Change, Social Indicators Research among others . She is the author of the book The Chilean Labor Market: A Key to Understanding Latin American Labor Markets (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), and with Peter Siavelis co-editor of Democratic Chile: The Politics and Policies of a Historic Coalition, 1990-2010 (Lynne Rienner, 2014). Sehnbruch received her PhD from the University of Cambridge in Social and Political Sciences in 2004.

Dr. Jean-Paul Faguet is Professor of the Political Economy of Development at the London School of Economics, and Director of the MSc in Development Management. He is also Chair of the Decentralization Task Force at Columbia University’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue. He works at the frontier between economics and political science, using Q2 methods to investigate development transformations. Recent publications include Is Decentralization Good for Development? Perspectives from Academics and Policymakers (Oxford, 2015), and Decentralization and Popular Democracy: Governance from Below in Bolivia (Michigan), which won the W.J.M. Mackenzie Prize for best political science book of 2012.

This event will be chaired by Gareth Jones who is Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Centre at LSE. He is Professor of Urban Geography in the Department of Geography and Environment at LSE and an Associate Member of the International Inequalities Institute.

(Banner image: Donatas Dabravolskas /