In case you don’t know, Peru is an emerging market, which (in all honesty) means it’s a poor country that becomes slightly less poorer every year. Peru’s growth is being fueled primarily from the recently privatized mining and hydrocarbon industries, but the nation’s narrow road to development is clogged by taxis and buses who refuse to stop for pedestrians. DC was recently crowned the city with the worst traffic in the US, but Lima makes DC seem like the autobahn. As an old colonial city in desperate need of massive infrastructure investments, Lima’s situation could not have been more accurately symbolized than by our visits today to the Central Bank and Stock Exchange. We received a warm welcome first by the Central Bank and were led to a conference room stubbornly clinging to late 1970’s design schemes and overlooking several disheveled and abandoned neighboring buildings. Our enthusiastic speaker explained to us that inflation stabilization and an open market are at the heart of the recent successes. However, despite the Peruvian economy’s steep upward trajectory, it’s still only the size of medium-sized US bank and poverty is still widespread. After the interesting discussion, our natural MBA instincts were exhibited as we gorged on their kind offerings of crust-less sandwiches, cookies, Inka Kola, great coffee and corn-syrup free Coca Cola.
We walked a couple of blocks down to the stock exchange and through the massive hand-carved wood doors. Let me tell you, Peruvians have amazing woodworking skills and these skills are prominently displayed throughout Lima as gorgeous balconies, doors and exterior decorations. Back to the stock exchange… it was well-appointed, and there were tons of people on the trading floor making trades. A group of us were dared by Prof. Curley to run upstairs to the gallery to ring the bell. Needless to say, I had to try. So along with some bros and broettes (who shall remain nameless) we went up to the gallery in search of the bell. We couldn’t find it and thought it might be in the one room that was open. We were brave enough to look for it in the first place, so we decided to walk inside and ask the gentlemen behind the desk, “Perdoneme señor, donde esta el timbre?” With a sly smile, he replied, “No sé lo que estás hablando.” I quickly remembered our International Management class, pulled out 20 soles to jog his memory and asked him, “Tu sabes ahora?” He took the money and said to me in English, “Bribery is a serious crime in Peru, and all of our bells are carved of wood. Better luck next time.”