Santiago Peña (MPA-EPM ’03) was appointed as Paraguay’s Minister of Finance in January 2015. Peña began his career at the Central Bank of Paraguay, where he worked in the Department of Open Market Operations from 2000 to 2009. He then moved on to the International Monetary Fund as an economist in the Africa department, returning to his home country in 2012 to join the Central Bank of Paraguay as a board member.
Describe your background prior to attending SIPA.
As an undergraduate, I worked at the Central Bank of Paraguay in a student position in the research department while completing my bachelor’s degree in economics. I knew I wanted to study abroad and a colleague at the central bank who had graduated in one of the first classes of SIPA’s MPA in Economic Policy Management strongly recommended it.
What are some of your career highlights since you graduated from SIPA?
In every responsibility I took on, I tried to achieve something for the institution that I represented at the time. At the central bank, after Paraguay signed an agreement with the IMF, I had an important role in implementing the program that led Paraguay through the most important economic reform in its history, creating the foundation to make it one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. From 2009 to 2012, I worked for the IMF. I went to Africa 15 times, visiting countries like Tanzania, Burundi, and Senegal. It was a very rich experience, working with African countries in very different circumstances. I considered not just problems of how to promote growth, but problems of climate change, population, ethnicity—situations in which you’re not going to see results in a short time, situations that need a lot of work and many years of working together on a consistent plan to break the poverty trap.
How do you think SIPA helped you achieve your goals?
I had come from a position in a government that was not reaching out to the rest of the world. I saw that we had to position our country in a way that had not been done in the past. Paraguay is between two large countries, Brazil and Argentina. We’re small, but still [geographically] larger than Germany, similar to California. People don’t know that we’re relatively stable. We did not suffer in the debt crisis; along with Colombia, we’re the only South American country not to experience hyperinflation. The skills and knowledge I got at SIPA were important in learning how to advocate for and position Paraguay.