BOSTON — Harvard Business School associate professor Laura Alfaro, an authority on international finance and economic development, has been named Costa Rica's Minister of National Planning and Economic Policy by President-elect Laura Chinchilla. The new government, which was elected in February, will be inaugurated on May 8. Alfaro, a Costa Rica native, will take a leave of absence from Harvard in order to fulfill her new responsibilities.
As minister she will lead a staff of some 200 people responsible for creating the economic strategy of Costa Rica. "In that regard, we function as a think tank for the government," Alfaro explains. "But we have to go beyond that as well, devising a development plan, then helping to coordinate different organizations responsible for implementing the plan, and finally evaluating what we've done. In many ways, all this is related to my teaching and research at Harvard Business School in areas such as capital markets, foreign direct investment, economic development, and globalization."
Since joining the HBS faculty in 1999, Alfaro has taught the School's required first-year MBA course in macroeconomics as well as two popular second-year electives--Institutions, Macroeconomics, and the Global Economy, and more recently, a course she developed called Global Capital and National Institutions-Crisis and Choice in the International Financial Architecture.
Alfaro came to the attention of some of Chinchilla's key advisors during the campaign last November, when she was asked by HBS alumnus Pablo Jenkins (MBA 2006) to teach a case study to a group he had founded for young Costa Ricans between the ages of 18 and 25 who were eager to learn more about economic and political issues affecting their country. During her visit, she reunited with René Castro, whom she had first known when he was a Ph.D. candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School and who was then serving as Chinchilla's campaign manager. "He told me, 'If we win, I hope you will consider coming back to help Costa Rica,'" Alfaro recalls. "Harvard Business School is a very important part of my life, but I now want to take some time to put my academic background and training to use on behalf of my country."
Alfaro earned her Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1999. She received a BA in economics with honors from the Universidad de Costa Rica in 1992 and a Licenciatura in 1994 from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica of Chile, where she graduated with highest honors. Her latest research has focused on the role local institutions play in attracting capital flows and helping them contribute to economic growth. She is the author of numerous Harvard Business School case studies as well as articles that have been published in leading academic journals.
In 2008 Alfaro was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. This honor is bestowed each year to recognize the top 200-300 young leaders under the age of 40 from around the world for their professional accomplishments, commitment to society, and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.
Alfaro will reside in the Costa Rican capital, San Jos??, with her husband, Fabio Kanczuk, an economist and consultant, and their five-year-old daughter, Isabella.