Fasten Seat Belts?

Heading the list of those most vulnerable are countries whose markets have been viewed for some time as badly behaved: Venezuela, Argentina and Ecuador. Venezuela, which has given up producing things that its consumers want, importing them instead on the back of its oil revenues, looks particularly exposed. The same oil revenue has allowed the number of public-sector jobs to more than double since President Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, and is also underwriting a big new arms deal with Russia. Cutting public spending is an option, but not one which he would wish to contemplate before critical regional elections at the end of November. Even then it may not be easy to switch into austerity mode. Despite a recent increase in the arrests of “foreign imperialist plotters”, Mr Chávez would find it hard to explain away large numbers of people descending onto the streets.

If lower commodity prices lead to lower costs of staple foods, this would provide Argentinians with some relief against their country’s rampaging inflation. But for President Cristina Fernández’s government it would be a different story. It gets 10% of its revenue from export taxes. A fall in commodity prices would squeeze farmers (who already pay a 35% tax on exports) even more and might reignite their recent protests. Ms Fernández might be tempted to make up the shortfall by raiding pension funds. There is also a currency concern. The peso, which has won back trust after its crash in 2001, is backed by high soyabean prices. If these fall, it could lead to a fresh flight to dollars for those able to get them, and misery for everyone else.

For well-behaved countries, such as Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Peru, things look better. Their governments have balanced their budgets and built up trade surpluses along with dollar reserves. In some places growth is still strong: the latest year-on-year figures show an 8.3% rise in Peru for July, and 6.1% rise in Brazil for the second quarter. Not everyone is convinced by this rosy picture. “Economists who talk about structural shifts on the eve of a cyclical downturn should all be taken outside and shot,” says Gray Newman of Morgan Stanley, a bank.

The Credit Crunch in Latin America, The Economist 

Hay algo que me llama la atención en esto y es, como dice el artículo, el hecho de que es de las primeras crisis financieras mundiales donde los titulares no tienen a algún país de América Latina. Pero a pesar de lo anterior, nada nos garantiza que no volvamos a las primeras páginas, pues esta crisis, con seguridad, afectará -y ya está afectando- los factores que han determinado la expansión económica en los últimos 7 años. Por ejemplo, dos claves han sido los altos precios de las materias primas y el amplio financiamiento internacional . Ambos se han visto afectados: El precio del petróleo y de otros commodities han bajado considerablemente en los últimos días y fruto de la desaceleración es factible que bajen más. Y el asunto de la disponibilidad de crédito ya está más que publicitado. Lo que es más preocupante es que a pesar del Plan Paulson , la situación no mejorará necesariamente, pues los Money Markets, importantes para todo el sistema financiero, siguen faltos de liquidez.

No sé. Lo único que es seguro es que los que fueron serios y responsables con las ganancias de los últimos tiempos, como Chile, podrán moverse con más facilidad y sufrirán menos. Los irresponsables ya se están empezando a preocupar. Y eso puede ser tan sólo el aperitivo.

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