From December 4-6, US and Salvadoran officials conducted the first-annual review of the Partnership for Growth (PFG) economic stimulus initiative. In 2011 the Funes administration accepted this bilateral agreement offered by Obama during a visit to El Salvador, and signed a Joint-Country Action Plan with the US government that identified battling crime and ramping up foreign investment as the path to economic growth in El Salvador.
The PFG strongly reflects President Obama’s National Security Strategy, which outlines a three-pronged approach for Latin America of sending money, training and weapons to fight the ineffective and deadly Drug War, using development aid as a tool for US influence, and assuring new “markets” like natural resources and public-run industries and services are opened to transnational corporations. The different programs and proposed legislation highlighted in the annual evaluation of the PFG corroborate what Gilberto García of the Center for Labor Studies says is its primary objective: “generat[ing] a climate for business that principally benefits multinational companies from the United States.”
Delegates from the United States Departments of State and the Treasury, USAID, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation met with the Salvadoran Growth Council, made up of functionaries from El Salvador’s economic cabinet and the country’s wealthiest businessmen, and gave a positive evaluation of the progress made on the PFG’s 20 goals and actions for achieving them. Specifically, the delegation cited new bilateral security initiatives; programs to train youth for jobs with US fast food restaurants, hotels, and Wal-Mart; and new laws presented to the Salvadoran legislature to incentivize foreign investment.
As she has on previous occasions, US Ambassador to El Salvador, Mari Carmen Aponte, threatened that development funds would not be disbursed if the Salvadoran legislature did not pass a proposed Public Private Partnership law that would auction off State-owned companies and public services to private bidders, putting thousands of jobs and access to essential public services in danger.
The foreign investment solution that the PFG proposes for economic growth in the country has already failed in El Salvador. According to Dr. Salvador Arias, an economist and legislative advisor, foreign investment has only meant that profits are “extracted” from the country and the jobs it creates pay “very low wages” that do not improve the situations of the impoverished majority of the population.