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Sunday, June 04, 2006

COLUMN: LATIN AMERICA'S ECONOMY PROJECTED TO SLOW DOWN IN 2007

The party is coming to an end. After three years of healthy economic growth, Latin American economies -- including Venezuela and Argentina -- will start losing steam in 2007, according to new projections from the World Bank, the United Nations and Wall Street economists. The new figures seem to confirm what many have long suspected: Latin America's recent export-led growth was largely due to external factors -- such as high commodity prices, low interest rates and a growing world economy -- and that this environment would not last forever. Read the full column in The Miami Herald.

46 Comments:

Anonymous Mousqueton said...

Andres:

I do not agree with your article and/or with the World Bank projections.

Will write a comment tomorrow.

Best regards;

5:50 AM  
Blogger VenePana.com said...

Venezuela's current political environment and economic policies discourage compettion and economic growth. Coupled with the weakening of commodity and metal prices, Venezuela will begin to feel the effects.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Mousqueton said...

Andres:

I have just realized that I haven't read any of your books. I am correcting that intellectual void by buying and certainly reading them all.
Shame on me!

6:19 PM  
Blogger A.M. Mora y Leon said...

I agree with the article, and I think the implications could be quite scary for Venezuela and Argentina. Neither represents a normal economy.

I don't even like the regional averaging the multilaterals use, either, it's much worse broken apart: Look at this Nationmaster chart of GDP growth rates.

Venezuela is way up top near these strange oil-gorged economies.

You can't call that a normal economic development, or good policies. Venezuelan poverty is higher than ever and the middle class is badly battered. There's no such thing as a new job. It's just oil prices, money that should go into investment but instead is being spent on soup kitchen programs and crony condos in Miami. It's oil's curse. What goes up must come down. It's what Keynes or someone like him once said: 'anything that can't go on, won't.'

But it gets worse: Take Venezuela out of the average, and Latam growth is even lower than the measly 4% or so. So, broken apart from averages, both Venezuela and the remainder of Latam on the whole look worse.

Latam is growing but that growth is badly lagging the rest of the world. I am not sure why that's happening, I think it's a problem of education and culture - the Catholic Church and the Spanish-Civil-War-era leftist intellectual establishment both have a loathing of capitalism and a great ability to spread it, so that conventional wisdom becomes 'business is bad, profit is bad.' It's absolutely terrible as an intellectual foundation. What's worse, what little business exists tends to be on the outskirts, on the margins, on the informal sector, and full of sharps and crooks, just because they are on the outside of the system. Worse still, there are the oligarchs who have the cedula to do business, keeping other businesses from forming. The whole private sector is under fire in Latam in so many ways - from the hostile intelligentsia, from the informalism that's the government's fault, and from the oligarchs. As a result, economic growth in Latam as a whole is lower than the rest of the world due to these fetters. It's pretty sad.

But the Economic piper for Venezuela is going to be profoundly expensive, given its squandered oil bounty, its lack of investment in its future oil production, its waste of talent, its lack of investment in economic diversification, its massive capital flight, and its castrofication of the economy at all levels, even down to the minute aspects of agriculture.

Very scary crash ahead for them. Big wars come of such things. And just as Hugo Chavez is arming the hemisphere. Something very ugly is taking shape. Chaco War, anyone?

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Mousqueton said...

a.m. mora y leon:

I haven't had the time to get around and write about the World Bank projections but the heart of my concern is that I can't recall a single World Bank projection in 2005 that forecasted the oil price settling at around $70. That is, if it indeed settles at that price and doesn't go higher before the end of the year.
I think the economic threshold for the price of oil is $80. At that point the world economy will reach a point of no return.
We seem to give for granted that though these prices are over 100% higher than the ones in 2005, everything is normal.
The impact of that single variable in the Latin American economies is huge and makes all the structural arguments unreliable, to say the list.
High oil prices though could be a blessing in disguise for Latin America.
High oil prices will mean inflation in the US and most major economies. Low cost products from Latin America (both because of the cost structure and currency exchange differentials) could help tame inflation to a certain degree in developed countries while fueling Latin American economies.
As for commodities, I am not completely sure that the price increases are tied up to the world economy. Both China and India have not yet open their markets entirely. It could very well be that opening their domestic markets to sustain growth could continue to put pressure in the price of commodities and will certainly attract fresh capital to offset any export decline.
My concern with projections such as the one from the World Bank is that they are based on historic patterns that keep getting more and more unreliable because, the single fact that the oil price, a key commodity, has gone up over 100% in one year for no other apparent reason than the market forces, has absolutely no parallel with any other economic phenomena in the past.
It is not business as usual and traditional models do not cut it anymore.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Mousqueton said...

a.m. mora y leon:

I just took a look at the Nationmaster charts you quote and though they do show the countries growth this information alone has no value.
If you are worth $ 1.00 and a year later you are worth $2.00, you would have grown by 100%. On the other hand, if another person is worth $10.0 million and the next year he makes $11.0 million he would have grown only 10%. The fact though is that 1.0 million is far more than $1.00.
For this analysis, the size of the economy of each country is more important than the growth rate.
Size does matter.

10:03 PM  
Blogger leftside said...

Andres, your (over)emphasis on the inevitable slowing rates of Venezuela and Argentina and use of single-minded sources was like mind control. Impressive!

I don't even think anyone in Miraflores expected an increase from today's growth in '07. But its just false to say that these "populist" governments wasted this fruitful period. Venezuela nearly doubled is foreign investment last year. You may not consider the investments in human capital and increased income of the poor important, but the booming consumer economy belies that. Chavez investments are nothing, if not for the future. Kirchner's moves turned that country's fortunes in amazing time.

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