Latin America must embark on a path of sustainable economic growth with increasing social equality to consolidate the progress it has made, head of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said here Wednesday. The region is now at a crossroad where it must decide which direction to take, the daily La Tercera quoted Alicia Barcena, executive secretary of the UN agency, as saying. Latin America is on an "unsustainable path of insufficient economic growth with high levels of inequality and little push towards structural social change," warned Barcena. While the region "has enjoyed an auspicious decade," today it faces growing challenges, Barcena said. She acknowledged that over the past 10 years or so, poverty and extreme poverty in Latin American countries have fallen. "However, in our region, the poorest one-fifth (of households) earn on average 5 percent of total income, while the wealthiest one-fifth earn 47 percent." "Equality must be ... the final objective of development, just as we propose in our document 'The time for equality'" presented in 2010, Barcena said. To place countries on the path towards balanced economic growth "requires a new equation between the state, the market and society," and changes that will not be easy, but neither can be postponed, the ECLAC chief said. The goal is to achieve a more equitable world in which "exercising our rights and building our life projects" are not dictated by circumstances of birth, age, gender or ethnicity, Barcena added.