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Cuadernos de economía

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6821

Cuad. econ. v.40 n.121 Santiago dic. 2003

http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0717-68212003012100048 

Cuadernos de Economía, Año 40, N° 121, pp. 761 (diciembre 2003)

THE FINAL HOURS OF THE ARGENTINEAN AGONY*

The papers in this panel ilustrate the sad end of a decade that seemed to be successful: For the first time in more than half a century, Argentina managed to stop cronic inflation and the gradual take over of the economy by the State. The final failure is due to the fact that the take over, far from disappearing, continued disguised as public indebtedness. This was inconsistent with stability (under any conceivable exchange system) and, finally, end up as a monumental expropiation of wealth.

This is clearly pointed out in the paper by Cortés Conde. His paper looks at the Argentinean crisis of December 2001 from a historical perspective. It emphasizes the differences between the conditions under which the world came out of the 1930 Depression and what was going on in the Argentinean economy towards the end of the twentieth century.

The paper by Schenone indicates that what was going on at the end of the twentieth century in Argentina was the consequence of the policy inconsistency between a regime of fixed exchange rate and half a decade of uninterrupted fiscal deficit. This inconsistency is an asymmetric one: While recurrent fiscal deficits would lead to a devaluation of the peso under any exchange rate regime, any such regime would be sustainable if the public sector kept its accounts in balance.

Guissarri points out that the Argentinean decadence during the last century is not only associated to specific historical episodes, but largely to a systematic choice of economic policies hostile to growth and stability. This recurring choice of sub optimal strategies is shown and compared with the growth path of other similar countries in terms of resource endowments and institutional conditions at the end of the IXX century, except for the electoral system. Historical testimonies about the electoral reform in 1912 suggest that the resulting electoral system could significantly distort the collective action mechanism to choose economic policies and to affect individual decisions. The crisis of 2001 is just the most recent example of this institutional failure.

Keywords: Deficit, Convertibility, Growth, Institutions

JEL Classification: 057


* This introduction was written by Osvaldo H. Schenone, Académico Titular de la Academia Nacional de Ciencia Económica, Argentina Email: schenone@arnet.com.ar

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