WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Latin America needs to transform its productive sectors and stop relying on favorable external economic conditions, if it hopes to achieve sustainable and lasting development. That was one of the principal conclusions of a debate among renowned economists and leaders of international organizations at the 17 th Annual CAF Conference, organized by CAF -Development Bank of Latin America-, together with the Inter-American Dialogue and the Organization of American States. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130905/FL75255 ) CAF president Enrique Garcia, who moderated the panel discussion on the second day of the annual gathering in Washington, argued that Latin America needs to invest more in education, technology and infrastructure. "A fundamental challenge for the region is to provide added value on top of the natural advantages that Latin America enjoys, through technological development and investments in human capital," said Garcia. In spite of positive economic growth in recent years, the average level of education among Latin Americans has not improved nearly enough, noted Ernesto Talvi, director of the Brookings-CERES Economic and Social Policy in Latin America Initiative. "In order to create long-lasting prosperity, we need to make a greater effort in education. If we do not, our societies will never undergo a real transformation." "Without the favorable winds at our back, we will have to start rowing by ourselves, which means boosting productivity, improving education and promoting social inclusion," observed Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), noting that " South Korea invests more in research and development than all Latin American countries put together." More than 50 million people in Latin America have risen out of poverty over the past decade. Still, inequality remains extremely high throughout the region, the panelists agreed. Alicia Barcena, executive secretary of the United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, emphasized the need for a strong public sector and public sector policies that promote social inclusion. "We need to invest more, not only in infrastructure, but also in the social realm and in technology," noting that "there should be universal broadband access." Reducing poverty is important, but equally important is promoting a more equal distribution of wealth within Latin American countries, noted World Bank vice president Hasan Tuluy. Another key to the transformation of the productive sectors in Latin America is increased investment in infrastructure. "Today we invest around 3 percent of our GDP in infrastructure each year," noted CAF president Enrique Garcia. "In the next five or six years, at a minimum we need to double our investment level and, in the context of slower economic growth, relying on public-private partnerships for increased investment will be fundamental," added Garcia. During two days of animated panel discussions, more than 900 political leaders, academics, financial executives, journalists and political analysts from across Latin America and the United States debated a broad range of topics at the 17 th Annual CAF Conference, including U.S. foreign policy, economic development and the new approaches emerging in the region to combat illegal drugs, in addition to promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. The mission of CAF-Development Bank of Latin America- is to promote sustainable development and regional integration by financing projects in the public and private sectors and providing technical cooperation and other specialized services. Established in 1970, CAF-development bank of Latin America- currently has 18 shareholder nations — 16 in Latin America and the Caribbean, along with Spain and Portugal — and 14 private banks, and is a major source of multilateral financing as well as an important source of knowledge in the region. For more information, please visit www.caf.com.