Investment in badly needed infrastructure will enable Latin America to continue growing even as the region's raw materials boom begins to subside, Latin American and Chinese experts said here Wednesday.

Participants in the 5th Latin America China Investors Forum also highlighted the opportunities that infrastructure investment will create.

"The entire region has great potential," Jean-Marc Aboussouan, head of the Infrastructure Division at the Inter-American Development Bank, or IDB, told Efe.

He estimated that $200 billion would be invested in infrastructure in the region in the coming years.

The drive to develop the region's infrastructure is something "Latin America desires and desperately needs," the director of the Inter-American Dialogue's Latin America and China program, Margaret Myers, said, noting that the Asian giant had developed financing options for that purpose.

Despite the global slowdown, economic growth in Latin America over the past decade has succeeded in reducing poverty from 48 percent to 29 percent and expanding the region's middle class by 50 percent to 152 million people.

Achieving further economic advances, however, will require bridging the gap with developed countries in terms of infrastructure, transport, telecommunications, water, and energy.

"There's a lack of railways, airports, ports, metro stations, buses, energy plants, which must be developed. The governments are beginning to realize that if they want their economies to keep growing they need to support the sector and this is a big opportunity," the director for Asia of Peruvian firm Samcorp, Lawrence Lam, said.

The region needs to increase its infrastructure investment from 3 percent of gross domestic product to 6 percent, according to the IDB. EFE