Interview with Santiago Levy


School of International and Public Affairs

Mexican economist Santiago Levy Algazi became the Vice President for Sector and Knowledge on March 1, 2008. From August 2007 to February 2008, he served as General Manager and Chief Economist for the IDB Research Department.

Previously, he was General Director at the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) from December 2000 to October 2005. Under his tenure, he promoted changes to the Social Security Act to increase transparency and accountability in IMSS finances and create long-term reserves.

From 1994 to 2000, Levy served as the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit of Mexico, becoming the main architect of the renowned social program Progresa-Oportunidades that benefits the poor. He managed budgetary adjustments during the 1994-95 economic crisis and the 1998 fall in oil prices. Previous positions include President of the Federal Competition Commission and Director of the Economic Deregulation Program at the Ministry of Trade and Industrial Promotion.

Levy holds a Ph.D. in economics from Boston University and a Masters in political economy from the same university. He was a post-doctoral fellow at Cambridge University.

Levy has advised several governments and international organizations and has held several teaching positions, including faculty positions at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo of Mexico and Boston University, where he was Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Economic Development.

He is the author of at least 75 articles, monographs and book chapters on such diverse subjects as poverty reduction, competitiveness, foreign exchange policy, export imbalances, pricing, microeconomics and energy. His paper Poverty in Mexico won the 1992 National Research Prize in Economics awarded by the Bank of Mexico.

Other honors include the 1992 Latin American Economics Prize by El Trimestre Económico for the article "Tipos de Cambio Múltiples y Racionamiento de Divisas" (with Roberto Rosales); the Research Award of the World Bank for "Assessing the Mexico U.S. Free Trade Agreement" (with Anthony Venables and Sweder Van Wijnbergen); and Honorary Mention, 1986 National Research Prize in Economics by Banco Nacional de México for the article, "Respuestas de Corto Plazo ante Crisis de Divisas."

His recent published books are Good Intentions, Bad Outcomes: Social Policy, Informality and Economic Growth in Mexico, Brookings Institution Press, 2008; Progress against Poverty: Sustaining Mexico’s Progresa-Oportunidades Program, Brookings Institution Press, 2006; Sin Herencia de Pobreza, Editorial Planeta, 2005 (with Evelyne Rodríguez); and Ensayos sobre el Desarrollo Económico y Social de México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico, 2004.

Brookings Institution
Nonresident Senior Fellow - Global Economy and Development, Brookings Economic and Social Policy in Latin America Initiative

Santiago Levy is a nonresident senior fellow with the Global Economy and Development Program at Brookings and president of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association. From 2008 to 2018 he was the vice president for sectors and knowledge at the Inter-American Development Bank. From 1994 to 2000, he served as the deputy minister at the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit of Mexico.

He has also held the following positions: general director, Mexican Social Security Institute: Dec 2000–Oct 2005; president, Federal Competition Commission: Jun 1993–Dec 1994; director for deregulation, Ministry of Industry and Trade: Feb 1992–Jun 1993; associate professor of economics (tenured), Boston University: Sept 1989–May 1993; director, Institute for Economic Development, Boston University: Sept 1989- Aug 1990; assistant professor of economics, Boston University: Sept 1983–Aug 1989; visiting researcher, Cambridge University: Jan-Dec 1981; economics professor, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México: Feb 1979-Dec 1982.

At the Ministry of Finance, he was the main architect of Progresa-Oportunidades, Mexico’s incentive-based health, nutrition, and education program for the poor; managed the transition from generalized to targeted subsidies; promoted legal reforms to decentralize resources to states and municipalities; participated in the change of the pay-as-you-go to the capitalized pension system; promoted a regional plan to develop Mexico’s southern region; and drafted and negotiated six budgets with the Federal Congress. At the Social Security Institute, he promoted legal changes to reform pensions and extend coverage to rural workers; was responsible for the provision of health services to 45 million people, introducing preventive health programs and electronic medical records; managed pensions for 2.5 million people and day care centers for 230,000 children; managed $8 billion in reserves; and collected annually $20 billion in social security contributions. In 1993, he led the work to draft Mexico’s first antitrust legislation to regulate mergers and punish anticompetitive business practices, and served as the first president of the Federal Competition Commission.

Mr. Levy has received the following awards: first place, National Research Prize in Economics, granted by Banco Nacional de México for his article “Poverty in Mexico;” first place, Latin American Economics Prize, granted by El Trimestre Económico for his article “Multiple Exchange Rates and Foreign Exchange Rationing.” Mr. Levy has published six books, 24 articles in academic journals, and 20 book chapters on economic growth and productivity, social policy, informality, education, budgetary and tax policy, trade policy reform, rural and regional development, competition policy, labor markets, and policies for poverty alleviation. His latest book on economic growth in Mexico, “Under-Rewarded Efforts, The Elusive Quest for Prosperity in Mexico,” was published in 2018 by the Inter-American Development Bank.


  • Ph.D. Boston University (1980)
  • M.A. Boston University (1978)
  • B.A. Boston University (1976)

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