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With this issue dedicated to Surety and Credit Insurance, “Mercado Asegurador” will be present at the Pan American Surety Association (APF/PASA) XXVI General Assembly being held in Dublin, the capital of Ireland. With a high-level academic programme, participants will have the opportunity to learn from other countries’ experiences in the various Working Groups, and to profit from the various conferences and panels.
Against a complex international backdrop for several countries, the World Bank reports some signs of self-sustainable economic recovery among high-revenue nations for the first time in the past five years. This suggests they might join developing nations as a second driver for global economic growth.
Given the yet feeble global recovery and recent financial volatility, as well as the advisability of improving coordination among central banks, the International Monetary Fund has asked high-revenue countries to avoid a sudden withdrawal of monetary stimuli.
At their latest plenary meeting, the Chinese authorities established that the State continues playing an essential role, and Government-run companies will focus on strategic industries and utilities which, unlike the rest of the economic activity, will not be opened up to the private sector.
According to World Bank estimates, the world will grow at a rate of 3.2% in 2014 (3.7% according to the IMF), with rates for emerging and developed economies being 5.3% and 2.2%, respectively.
It comes as no surprise that the past few years have been most favourable for emerging countries, and therefore thriving for Latin America, whose economy as a whole has performed well above international averages. Now the challenge is to remain on that growth path.
Economic cooperation and integration among countries may be efficient to draw the much needed mutual lessons and dynamism required in the current international situation.
The issue is that whatever happens in Europe and in the USA affects the world at large. Even though the latter is showing some clear signs of recovery, the current strategy in the Eurozone is to remain on an austerity path, and not to take that leading to growth.
How have these circumstances affected the insurance industry? We know that the level of penetration of insurance is comparatively low in Latin America, but it has increased between 2 and 3% in the past decade, vis-ŕ-vis a decrease in other continents. Over the past 20 years, global penetration has gone up from 4.2% to 6.5%, but from 1.1% to 3.0% in Latin America. This is a very interesting trend in percentage terms, but also reveals there is still a long way to go.
Economic growth in the region is correlated to increased insurance production, which trend is expected to follow the pace of economic growth over the next few years. But this market penetration is not consistent; it varies from one country to another, and also among lines of business.
In Argentina, Sureties and Credit Insurance have been impacted by the slowdown in economic activity and are not longer growing at the levels recorded until late 2011. Even though the sureties market grew in 2012 and 2013, it did so at a far slower pace compared to that benchmark year. In constant values, this growth was negligible. Loss ratios remained low, however. It should be noted that Environmental Sureties account for much of the premium volume booked by this insurance line, so the development of more traditional books of business is even slower.
Market players consider that the market should base competition on offering differential services, rather than on merely bringing down prices. The range of business opportunities generated by economic activity is huge, and it calls for the need to think of the new Surety plans the market is looking for.
As far as credit insurance is concerned, loss ratios for this line of business are impacted by the performance of domestic economies. With an expected growth rate of just one digit for the whole year, credit insurance emerges as a useful tool for trading in a context of economic uncertainty. This cover is expected to grow in Latin America over the next few years, as more investments are flowing into several countries in the region.
The big pending issue regarding credit insurance still is product dissemination, and efforts to raise awareness among businessmen in the region about the risks facing their receivables, and how this cover allows their companies to enjoy improved foreseeability.
We wish to especially thank all those who contributed to this issue, to the Panamerican Surety Association, and to the organizers for welcoming us and making our work easier. We wish you all every success and a most fruitful meeting.

Pedro Zournadjian

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