Ideas, Policies and Outcomes in Development Economics: The Influence of Latin America’s Structuralist Economic Thought Remarks by Nora Lustig, Tulane University Annual Conference: Inaugural Panel WIDER Helsinki, Finland - September 17, 2015 After the Second World War and up until the 1980s, the main goal of economic policies in Latin America was to develop an indigenous industrial sector, seen as essential to become a mature economy. Given that LA was a late comer, industrialization called for the protection against foreign competition of the indigenous sector and state support. This gave rise to Import Substitution Industrialization. During this period, economic policy was characterized by a heavy dose of protectionism vis-à-vis manufacturing imports and foreign direct investment and other components of state-led development. The ISI strategy was at the core of what is known as Latin America’s structuralist economic thought. It can be said that Latin American structuralism officially began at the end of 1949 and the beginning of 1950 with the publication by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) of two documents: “The Economic Development of Latin America and Some of Its Main Problems” and “The Economic Study of Latin America 1949.” In spite of the fact that these were official documents of a United Nations organization, their main ideas can be attributed to the work of the very influential Argentine economist Raúl Prebisch—then head of ECLAC--. Prebisch developed the intellectual basis of the “centerperiphery” framework and—together with Brazilian economist Hans Singer--the theory of secular deterioration of terms of trade for commodity producers and exporters. The view at the time was that without protecting imports from foreign competition, Latin America would never industrialize and without a robust industrial sector, the economies of the region would never fully develop. Thinkers at the time assumed that industrialization through import substitution would lead the peripheral economies to a more independent, democratic, and egalitarian growth path than growth based on primary goods exports. But reality turned out to be very different. The severe limitations of industrialization via import substitution became evident all too soon. As industrialization proceeded, the problem of external imbalances became more acute and unmanageable. Balance of payments crisis became frequent. 2 Because ISI relied on (implicitly and explicitly) taxing the primary goods sector, agriculture became less dynamic. A stagnating agricultural sector resulted in bottlenecks in the production of foodstuffs and, hence, in inflationary pressures. Second, because the industrial sector used imported capital-intensive technology, employment in urban areas did not grow fast enough to absorb migrant labor from depressed rural areas giving rise to expanding urban poverty (marginalidad). Third, as the import-substitution process advanced, the resources that could be transferred from the primary sector to industry declined and the process depended more and more on state subsidies to make it viable (large infrastructure projects, subsidies on key inputs such as energy and the government as last-resort employer). While public expenditures complementary to the industrialization process increased, government revenues could not keep pace because of a stagnating primary sector and a subsidized industrial sector. An imbalance in the public finances was thus unleashed, resulting in demand pressures that contributed to higher inflation and, eventually, fiscal crises. Disappointment with the results of the import-substitution process gave way to new currents of thought within structuralism. The Radical View concluded that the only way of overcoming the limits to growth was by changing the system altogether and adopting socialism through either revolution (such as Cuba did) or democratic means (such as Chile attempted under Allende in the early 1970s). Another group-the reformists--argued that development within capitalism was feasible but it required a re-enforcement of the inward-looking strategy through changes in the composition of domestic consumer demand. Growth within capitalism existed but only if the distribution of income became decidedly more equal. Celso Furtado, an influential Brazilian structuralist economist, was among the main proponents of this view. Furtado and his followers considered that the restrictions on growth were fundamentally supply-side in nature. The supply constraints emerged during the “difficult” stage of import substitution, when the productive structure moved increasingly to more capitalintensive sectors with also higher import requirements. This resource allocation, in turn, was the result of an unequal distribution of income that generated a demand profile biased toward these sectors. This growth pattern exacerbated inequality, poverty, and foreign dependency. Within this framework, then, a more equal distribution of income would be accompanied by higher 2 3 output and employment growth rates as well as a higher degree of national control over domestic capital and output. The ideas outlined above triggered a series of studies that analyzed the relationship between inequality and growth through the impact of the former on savings, the composition of demand and the capital- and import-intensity of output. In general, these studies found a found evidence of a potentially positive, yet small, relationship between greater equality and growth. (Cline, 1972; Wells, 1977; Berry, 1981; Lustig, 1981; Bonelli and Viera da Cunha, 1983). Perhaps more importantly, the ideas also inspired a series of real life attempts at widespread redistribution: for example, the socialist reformist experiment in Chile (Allende) and of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, state-sponsored land reforms in Bolivia and Peru, and the attempts to increase real wages through minimum wages and/or labor-friendly legislation in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay during the 1970s and 1980s. In practice, sadly, most redistributive processes failed. They generated output shortages and fueled inflation. Moreover, reformist or revolutionary redistributive processes entailed conflicts that caused financial and physical decapitalization, both of which negatively affected output. Income redistribution turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated: it led to economic chaos and social conflict. Reformist redistribution was attempted at the same time that in most countries in LA there were leftist guerrilla movements whose objective was to overthrow capitalism. Those were the days of the Cold War. The economic, political and military elites could rely on support from the United States in fighting the left. Many countries in Latin America faced military coups and long years of bloody and repressive authoritarian regimes. Attempts at trying to remove the bottlenecks associated with the ISI strategy through redistribution backfired. In the 1960s and early 1970s, far from resulting in self-sustained growth, redistributive policies exacerbated imbalances and undermined democracy. However, the ISI strategy was given another respite. Rising external and fiscal deficits during the second half of the 1970s were funded by rich country commercial banks eager to re-cycle a flood of the so-called petro-dollars. As a result, Latin American sovereign and private foreign debt rose in country after country. When interest rates started to rise in the United States in the early 1980s, debt servicing became increasingly more difficult. With commodity prices signaling a downward trend and rising interest rates in the United States, commercial banks became increasingly reluctant to lend to a region whose economic prospects seem shaky. 4 The debt crisis ensued. In order to avoid default and stabilize domestic prices, governments had to borrow from multilateral financial institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. This lending, however, came with strict conditionality. Conditionality involved draconian fiscal austerity and major changes in economic policy. In order to have access to the much needed foreign exchange, LAC had to give up its inwardlooking/state-led development strategy and slash fiscal deficits, devalue their currencies, liberalize its trade and foreign investment regimes as well as its financial sector, privatize state companies, and dismantle its industrial policy. These set of policies—associated with Chicago-trained economists--became eventually known as the Washington Consensus, a term coined by the Washington-based economist John Williamson. The dominant mainstream thinking at the time considered that the policies pursued under ISI were at the root of LA’s poor economic performance and structuralist thinking was demonized and banished from mainstream circles. The recurrent failure of IMF-led programs to curb inflation in LA during the debt crisis of the 1980s, however, led to the eventual development and legitimization of more heterodox approaches. The structuralist theory of inflation gave great importance to the transmission or reproduction mechanisms—such as wage indexation and oligopolistic pricing--by which inflationary pressures are translated into an increase in the general level of prices in the entire economy. These analyses have been the foundations for the so-called heterodox stabilization programs, which direct the bulk of the measures toward eliminating “inertial” inflation and distributive conflicts by freezing prices and salaries. Leading scholars in the region such as Brazilian economists Persio Arida and Francisco Lopes from Brazil) derived sophisticated models of inertial inflation. The ideas were incorporated into policy in several countries –Plan Austral in Argentina and Plano Real in Brazil, for example--, with different degrees of success. At the beginning, structuralist ideas about stabilization were treated with utmost suspicion by the international financial institutions and many conservative policymakers. However, over time some of its tenets were increasingly embraced by mainstream economics, both in academia and 4 5 policy circles. A prominent example of the mainstreaming of heterodox points of view in the anti-inflation battle of Latin America in the 1980s is the Mexican “Pacto” introduced in 1988. In spite of the strict adherence to orthodoxy that had characterized government economic policy throughout the 1980s, after several failed attempts with IMF-style stabilization programs, the “Pacto” included measures to crush the inertial component of inflation (such as wage and price controls). The development of anti-inflation programs that combined some ingredients from orthodox economics and heterodox-Latin American structuralism is an example in which outcomes fed into ideas that in turn drove policy, and led to a public policy that could claim success. The fusion of ideas in policymaking ended up curbing inflation in most of Latin America. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, country after country in Latin America implemented—albeit in different degrees-- the policies advocated by the Washington Consensus. Trade and capital accounts were liberalized, state-owned enterprises were privatized, and subsidies, private investment restrictions and credit rationing schemes were curbed if not eliminated. Some twenty-five years later, the Washington Consensus´ market-oriented reforms have still not paid off. With the exception of Chile, output and productivity growth in the region has been lackluster, excluding the recent years of the now gone commodity boom. Most of LA is still heavily reliant on commodity (or commodity-based) exports and thus subject to the vicissitudes that volatile commodity markets face. In contrast, countries such as China, India and Vietnam which have followed a more dirigiste approach in their economic policies enjoyed rapid growth for a significant period of time. This led to a lot of “soul-searching” among mainstream economists. The result has been a skyrocketing number of development theorists and applied economists modeling and testing the role of structural characteristics such as market failures, unequal distribution of land, income and wealth, and social norms and institutions in shaping development outcomes. Two salient examples of the mainstreaming of structuralist thinking are the importance attributed to creating new comparative advantages through state intervention—a modern form of “industrial policy,” and the rising concern with the negative impact of inequality on growth. The realization that market failures may be at the root of LAC’s lackluster performance gave rise to a new form of industrial policy whose objectives are to internalize externalities, improve efficiency, provide public goods, and address coordination failures and capital market imperfections. Because these policies involve government actions that are not targeted to specific sectors (horizontal) as well as some which are (vertical), some authors have proposed to call 6 them productive development policies or PDP to distinguish them from the industrial policies of the inward-looking period. The link between inequality and growth has also been the subject of renewed theoretical and empirical research. The most complete theoretical discussion of the link between inequality and growth by structuralist economists considered how inequality shaped the composition of consumer demand which in turn fostered a composition of supply which stifled growth. This relationship has also been the subject of new theoretical analysis by, in particular, the US-based Indian economist. Debraj Ray. Another example of new economic thinking on the relationship between inequality and growth—which was also present in structuralist thinking--emphasizes the role of imperfect capital markets and indivisibilities in available technologies. In their presence, the poor may be unable to invest in profitable ventures because they usually find themselves shut out of lending markets. In this case the initial wealth distribution affects economic performance and inequality both in the short and in the long run. Under these circumstances, a one-time redistribution from rich to poor is good for efficiency and reduces inequality. Thus, both mechanisms—shaping a country’s comparative advantage through state intervention and addressing the link between inequality, composition of consumption and slower growth-which were present in structuralist thinking from very early on have been “gentrified” by present-day development economists through the use of rigorous theoretical models. We have come so far that today one of the key voices in warning the world about the perilous consequences of inequality for growth is no other than the IMF itself. It is encouraging to observe how economic theorists, applied economists, international financial organizations and governments have given up fundamentalist positions and chosen a path that integrates views from different schools of thought. Hopefully, this open mind in the realm of ideas will result in policymaking that promotes inclusive and sustainable growth as well. Thank you. 6 Bibliography Alberro, J., and D. 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