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viernes, 19 de abril de 2002

Mercosur, Argentina, IMF, Liberalization, Help!

Everybody agrees and says to agree with free markets and private companies. But that is what they say. If we look what is happening in most of the countries in the world, in a lot of them anyway the state is growing, not decreasing.

Report spread by Cato Institute at the meeting of the Economic Freedom of the World Net, at the en of 2001, in San Francisco, Milton Fridman (Economy Nobel Prize)

“Only when we develop others, we are constantly success

Harvey S. Firestone.

It is a truth that the citizens of our countries (Mercosur) suffer from "fatigue of the adjustment". A constant recommendation is on the front page of newspapers when the IMF visits to us: "it is necessary to lower the expenses". This causes feelings "opposed to the IMF" in Argentina Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.

The Nineties were accompanied by remarkable progresses related to the orders and aspirations of international economic organisms. Commercial barriers were eliminated; it was reduced import quota and customs tariffs, etc.

As a consequence Mercosur began to appear as an interesting zone by the United States, the European Union and Asian countries as well. Ours shopping and supermarkets, before nonexistent, even though 50% on the imports in Argentina, they are supplied of many products of different parts from the world. All these years we have acceded to such products as an Italian or a German citizen with a third of their GDP per capita (a ratio before devaluation). Nevertheless we opened our barriers to the commerce in naive way, but also we made an effort releasing financial rules innocently, allowing the entrance of many and strong financial organizations and international insurance and reinsurance agencies.

It is interesting to observe that while our countries did that, the developed countries was established more protectionism. The United States is an example when it levied tariffs on the steel while at the same time Europe strongly increased the agricultural subsidies, making complicated our possibilities of getting markets for our exporting product.

Mr. Bush imposed a “dumping” tax on steel. It’s completely absurd. And that is done in name of free trade.

Report spread by Cato Institute at the meeting of the Economic Freedom of the World Net at the end of 2001, in San Francisco, Milton Fridman (Economy Nobel Prize).

At that time we lifted commercial barriers, we sold state assets, and we opened to the financial system and the capital market as nobody made it in a short time. The argument explanation that says we didn’t adopt with enough rigors the Washington Consensus, it doesn’t hit the target.

Privatizations. Capitals globalization, its influence on Argentina. The fiscal deficit. Convertibility evolution:

Privatization of Services

Sectors considered strategic in any country as energy, telecommunications and mining were completely opened to the foreign investment. This position obviously turned to Argentina a phenomenal attraction. It is good matter to transfer monopolies from public sector to reputable private companies, when in term of price vs. efficiency the user and the country do well out of that. In Argentina the idea of not promoting the competitiveness in the sector was bad. The fares in dollars neither contributed to improve the life of the inhabitants nor the costs of the companies.

The telephone companies that were quasi-monopoly by many years, they propose to renegotiate the rise of fares and diminishing quality services. Does it happen in the total satisfaction of the client era? - We taught to the businessmen a dissatisfied client although he doesn’t complaint, he does not come back. Despite in this case a client is more or less assured and therefore he couldn’t leave. This is a true cruelty. For a company of services, quality always means being centered around client’s necessities. Many of them have the obsession to know the client opinion. The client today is served quickly and with courtesy, thus we instructed. The services are the passion to please and to know the client, and they are the assets of companies. We inclusively know it is uneconomic not producing quality from the beginning. All these years we have received gurus from different parts of the world that taught us to understand that the service is a process could be improved.

Brainstorming, workshops, etc. Occasionally the rational thought of an economist is what to do work to service companies.

Even though in the last instance when the company’s decisions on fares are prospered, the process would have to be guidance by negotiating and marketing creativity. I say that, always trying to find solutions and never breaking spear or backing down the quality.

A service company has characteristics of "emotional company". Where are the famous commercials? What happens? – We could not be indifferent after a twelve years training of implanted philosophy. This logical though is stronger than economic trends of the country. What are the economists saying when they threaten with collapses?

Capitals, banks and unconditional liberation with fiscal deficit

We have seen that the capitals are extremely volatile and Argentina pressed by its low saving rates speculated betting continuity, without consistent final results according to the made efforts. It is necessary to reconsider the period and the way in which all international economic relationship have been managed during the last twelve years. The policies followed by suggestion of the multilateral organisms of credit in this period finished suddenly, although non-unexpected. It was made evident that we are a very vulnerable country in an unconditional liberalization context. During the year 2001 capitals fled from Argentina in a "click" of computer mouse. These transferences generated the most frightful crisis that could register from the beginning of the globalization.

This phenomenon that has occurred before then it’s calling "flight to the quality” does not register an antecedent of high speed and damage up-to-date as the Argentine case. In 1997 the deficit of the current account already came showing an increasing tendency.

This deficit as a consequence of the imbalance in the public accounts and in the middle of the Argentine bubble, the economic and political authorities did not observe the minimum vocation to reduce it. The official economic team, apparently orthodox, only made declamations while they remained in their positions. Is it Political obedient or condominium in the silly things? While the economy was growing, a majority of public economists and their private followers saw to another side. Although the recited speech to reduce the public expenditure added points for its present defense, the empirical evidence discredits to them.

Insufficient exports

In contexts as after it was described (while the capitals flow) is where the mediocrity of the exporting performance is hidden. During 1997 the growth of our exports in the first trimester already registered an 18% fall and a 5.5% fall in the second, but the variable it seemed relative. The reason was the mentioned ignorance and the illusion that existed because of the net income level of the capital account.

During second semester of 1997 as far as it was commented in the first semester (in which we grew 8.2%), a favorable cycle was been set up with external context and green light to deepen the way chosen.

It’s important to indicate that we lived that experience during the best year of worldwide economic growth before the crisis of Southeast Asiatic, and taking the previous ten years as a base. In the next years we could see how the dollar was increase the value by 40% (currency which the Pesos were fixed). Nevertheless as we lived a strong growth of worldwide exports and an explosion of direct foreign investment with abundant international liquidity, the forecast was limited.

The Asian and Russian crisis was published with discretion and artifice, meanwhile our commodities’ price suffered a 30% fall.

At the same time it was supported the reevaluation of the exchange rate for Real, currency of our main commercial partner (Brazil) until inexorably the devaluation arrived.

This was widely denied as prognosis by the economists satisfied with the "automatic pilot", in terms of predicting 90% of people with TV exposure made mistakes in respect of after events. Despite the economic conduction, it extended and persisted an indemnity attitude, without trying a minimum intention of "organizing something”, even though the annual speed of quarterly activity fall was dramatic.

It begins a recession cycle - orthodoxy and heterodoxy of central bank of Argentina

Financial system: strong and weak - the catastrophe arrives:

From growing quarterly between 8% and 10%, we became to fall 10% (in reverse gear to 100 km per hour, when we were advancing to 180 km in fifth speed). Later we didn’t need more external misfortunes to fail. Argentineans went into political campaign and we began to add four years of political conflict because of the power in the majority party.

The opposition won and peculiarly the economic policy was reinforced.

With new President of the Nation (Fernando De la Rúa) we went through the worst economic and social period of crudest inefficiency of contemporary history.

A “luxury” cabinet of ministers integrates by four economists praised by the financial press, the corporative bankers and international businessman.

A President of the BCRA pampered by the financial system and all management consultant, was the fifth player. Three of them were dismissed and one resigned, in a period of eight or nine months before the debacle. With the succession of silly things of all that team, the denouement arrived from a systematic crisis (financial) aggravated by the vulnerability, which we exposed ourselves. We had faced the challenge to turn to the vertiginous liberalization and the political and social stability into compatible one, in a country with less than two decades of democracy. The liquidity reached and the boasted solvency and exerting the inflexible reforms of 1994 with the intention of fortifying the bank, could not be still valid the financial system. Even with a generous aid, although inconsistent with the conducted philosophy of the Central Bank, neither the international banks escaped from the confusion. It is evident that the civil servant of that administration, as well as the previous ones, did not intellectually identify with any interventionist or leading measure.

Despite the granting of discountable amount and the attempt to salvage the banks, they became in that direction. Rigidity exposed by the Central Bank (BCRA) through the application of norms of the International Adjustments Bank of Basel (Circular 2180) in 1994 where it equated little and middle companies (PyMEs) with large corporations was not worthwhile. The submission of production and work to fortify the financial system were an insufficient attraction for savers remained in the system.

If empirically and not ideologically the conceived system had been so solid, it never would have depended on a civil servant’s permanence in an easy chair of the Central Bank.

The emergent cocktail in a tight spot

It isn’t good idea neither cutting oneself a leg nor causing bulimia to lose weight. In a turbulent social context the IMF proposals are at least utopian expressing it diplomatically. Turning down the overhead and to increase the taxes by De La Rua Government (with the four economists in the Minister cabinet and without modifications in the BCRA´s board), was the irreversible beginning of a direction towards the abyss in the first months of its steps. Affecting public employees reducing wages to improve fiscal surplus in a quarter percentage point before imminent default, was the delirium of a Minister under pressure from his own customer as well. Cavallo gave the last slaps of the drowned, without own control, in resignation and abandoned by his promoters.

Finally, the last day of that long period of the dominant arrangement, it got dark in the Buenos Aires city in the middle of a chaos, with a result of 28 people died and one hundred of people wounded.

Let us remember that from Juan Vital Sourrouille (Minister of Economy of President Alfonsin), Argentina signed 15 agreements with the IMF and it did not fulfill any of them completely. Today for our great surprise, with that antecedent we continued receiving complicated and unfulfilled requirement. At the same time our present civil servants are being accused because of they don’t subscribe what it would obviously be impossible to maintain. If the Minister Lavagna could agree again, as others used to do it, - Will he not be accused in couple of months of impostor as Cavallo? - The asymmetric return to “Pesos” is worth a chapter aside. This situation generated a legal insecurity unprecedented, where all contracts were violated; and it was given rise to a regulation very volatile later exceptional. By many months nobody believed in anything what people said. A proliferation of public bonds growing without pause and they went adding to the national debt and still the relation of debt vs GDP increased detrimentally. – Were there other plans to stop the massacre of people, “cacerolazo” (a demonstration hitting a pan) permanent every Fridays and to attenuate the strikes and demonstration? It is arrogant to think triviality from outside and reducing the outbreak magnitude. Already in October of 2002, in Argentina, 35% of the national companies with higher debts than 3 million pesos were in problems. (Source: Analysis of Credit Risk Management - BCRA). The risk of technical insolvency or the loans of “difficult recovery" grew 40% in 10 months. The credits of correct fulfillment fell 50% in the same period. Those who pay as they can through special adjustments are four times more than ones at the end of 2001. A confidential report provided by one of the most important rating agencies in the world, registered default in 55% of the O.N. of analyzed national companies. As a complement, a 38% additional of the O.N. shows a negative perspective, although they don’t register breaches up to date. That’s to say 92% is in default or with perspective of that. In addition, the Banks that concentrated the financial business and lent money from our people to our State, still estimating bonds to 50% have a negative Equity by 8 billion dollars. In order to compensate the banks and the deposits exchange, Finance Ministry emitted Dollar bonds which they was received by the banks, plus bonds that was received by the savers, that totalize a bond issue (soon of default) by 15,6 billion dollars and 4,3 billion Pesos.

The deposits have increased but the credit continues falling and the situation is precarious. It was proved the weak scheme in the medium term when the IMF lowered the thumb to Cavallo in August 2001. Right there where the facts speeded up in strong violence. The technical default publicly and formally revealed in the Congress, already it had been caused when Horst Köller and Ann Kruegger did not answered the Cavallo´s phone calls. From here everything was questioned, from the good relations with the international organisms to the legal regime of foreign investments that eliminated all restrictions in respect of capitals arrival.

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