Inequality and Trade Diversification: How can Income Inequality in Latin America be Reduced beyond Commodity Booms?

Hosted by Canning House and the LSE Latin America and Caribbean Centre

Online (via Zoom)


Prof Gareth Jones


Cristina Cortes


Dr Amir Lebdioui


Canning House and the LSE Latin America and Caribbean Centre (LACC) have partnered in the establishment of the Canning House Research Forum hosted at the LSE. The Forum is a five-year rolling programme of research and policy engagement. The overarching theme is, “The Future of Latin America and the Caribbean”, with a focus on the United Kingdom-Latin America relations.

Canning House and LACC joint expertise will see the production of a series of individual, policy-focused research projects aiming to advance knowledge and offer insights of practical application to political, economic, social, and business policy-making. 

Dr Amir Lebdioui is the first LSE - Canning House Fellow under this programme, and he will present the results of the initial research cycle during this event. After the 2000s commodity boom in which inequality had fallen in Latin America, inequality had risen once more, motivating waves of protests across the region. Maintaining the status quo is not sustainable and may further hinder political and economic stability in the region.  

You can read Dr Lebdioui's complete report hereTambién disponible en español aquí. Também disponível em português aqui.

In his report, Dr Amir Lebdioui, discusses the limits of what can be achieved in terms of inequality reduction without measures to diversify away from commodity dependence. What a country produces and exports matters for improving the distribution of income. However, the policy approaches to inequality reduction in Latin America have too often focused on mitigating the symptoms of inequality rather than its root causes, which include a scarcity of jobs that pay above subsistence levels, limited areas of competitive advantage in high value-added sectors,and high degrees of commodity dependence. 

If Latin America is ever to shake off its label as ‘the most unequal place in the world’, its governments will need to take bolder steps that tackle the root causes of inequality. This event will discuss different policy pathways moving forward, such as the role of coherent industrial, education and innovation policies.  

Meet our panel

This event's key speaker is Amir Lebdioui. Amir Lebdioui is the Canning House Research Fellow based at LACC. His research lies at the crossroads between industrial policy, natural resource management and the sustainable development agenda. As a result, his research has focused on the political economy of resource-based development, export diversification strategies, and green industrial policy in the context of renewable energy development and climate change. In addition to preparing a number of journal articles, Amir is also working on developing a new indicator of extractive-based development. He also regularly provides analysis for multilateral development organizations. He holds a PhD in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge.

This event will be co-chaired by Gareth Jones who is Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Centre at LSE. He is also Professor of Urban Geography in the Department of Geography and Environment at LSE and an Associate Member of the International Inequalities Institute. He has an interdisciplinary academic background having studied economics, geography and urban sociology, and holds an undergraduate degree from University College London and a doctorate from University of Cambridge. 

The second co-chair will be Cristina Cortes. Cristina Cortes is an Oxford and LSE politics and economics graduate. She has worked in government, banking and energy across a variety of commercial, business development and government relations roles in London, Houston, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil. Cristina joined Canning House in 2015, taking over as CEO in 2018.

Read more on our discussants

Vanessa Rubio Márquez, Professor in Practice, School of Public Policy, LSE; and Associate Fellow, Chatham House. Vanessa had a 25 year-long career in Mexico’s public sector, including serving as Senator and three times Deputy Minister (Finance; Social Development; and Foreign Affairs –Latin America and the Caribbean-). She is a strong advocate for the empowerment of women.

Marcela Melendez 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,  co-directed the “Equity and Social Mobility Mission” by invitation of the Colombian government. 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. 

Antonio Celia is visiting professor in practice at the LSE Latin America Centre. He has been an influential figure in the financial and industrial sectors of Colombia for 30 years and has been an important voice on issues of regional development, regulation and competitivity, technology innovation and corporate social responsibility. Antonio has also been the President of the Board for Empresarios por la Educación during six consecutive years and has an extensive record of delivering economic, social and cultural services to deprived groups. Antonio was  awarded the Order of Boyacá, the highest distinction awarded by the Republic of Colombia to its citizens.    

If you would like to watch the recording of this event you can follow the links here: the panel is available in English, as well as with interpretation in Spanish or Portuguese.

(Banner image: Jose Luis Stephens/ Shutterstock)