Marcelo Zabalaga Estrada | Diplôme en études du développement 1977
Economist and President of the Central Bank of Bolivia
After studying at Geneva University, between 1971 and 1975, and obtaining my degree in Economics, mainly in Quantitative Methods, I realised that I needed a more theoretical and academic grounding before returning to work in my country. This thinking motivated me to stay in Switzerland for two more years and I enrolled in a diploma course at the Graduate Institute.
My time at the Institute was very empowering and exciting. Every day, I discovered new subjects that invited reflection and refreshing ideas from skilled professors. It is fair to say that this training allowed me to start perceiving, in a new way, what Latin America was and to gain a better understanding of the reality of my country. I clearly remember Professor Jacques Forster, who shared with us not only his knowledge but his warm approach to life and human beings. I also remember students with whom I worked on issues related to the development processes of Venezuela, Brazil and China.
After finishing my studies, I returned to Bolivia and worked, until the end of the 1990s, in four types of institutions: Bolivian non-governmental organisations dedicated to supporting rural development – in this, my training at the Institute was very useful; the cement industry and other private enterprises; rural microfinance development, where I was able to create, together with other professionals, the Bolivian Rural Microfinance Association (FINRURAL); and pension fund administration institutions in Bolivia, Panama and Spain. For the last 14 years I have also been a university professor.
Between 1999 and 2006, I was in Spain, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, working in the fields of development and microfinance, but with a focus on provision of social housing as a means to improve living conditions. During this time, I also did consultancy work in South America, with a focus on pension funds, microfinance and international migration and their consequences for the development (and underdevelopment) of Latin American countries.
From 2007 until 2009, I was appointed Superintendent of Banking and Finances Entities by the government of President Evo Morales in Bolivia; since 2010, I have been President of the Central Bank of Bolivia.
My studies at the Graduate Institute not only influenced my work in Bolivia, but also helped me to better understand, interpret and get to know the Latin American reality and that of my country within the context of its multifaceted angles. One of the legacies of that time has been a continued enjoyment of the art of inquiry and research not only in my own field but also in several other subjects and disciplines.