|Blame it on Capitalism?|
|Key Words||Capitalism, Economic Growth, Debt, Default, Devaluation|
Free market reforms and the full embrace of capitalism were promised to bring prosperity to Argentina. After a decade of free market reforms, Argentina finds itself deeply in debt, facing the prospects of devaluation and a default on its international obligations. The unemployment rate is 14.7 percent, the proportion of the population that is impoverished has risen to 29.7 percent, and workers, politicians and businessmen doubt the wisdom of the capitalist model that they had supported.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a $13.7 billion package to rescue the Argentine economy, but many analysts believe that billions more will be needed if Argentina is to solve its problems. A default or devaluation by Argentina has the potential to plunge the country, the region and other economies into financial crises. Another significant fallout is that a failure in Argentina - a country that completely committed itself to market reforms - will be pointed to as evidence that capitalism doesn't work, especially by the left. This would undoubtedly remove the Bush Administration's proposal for the Free Trade Area of the Americas - a free trade zone stretching from the Alaska to the tip of South America, from consideration.
Argentina's problems appear to stem from ineffectual implementation of free market policies. State-run enterprises were notoriously corrupt and inefficient and were sold off through presidential decrees and backroom deals. Little was asked of buyers and bribes were given to government officials. Even after privatization these firms are not completely efficient. The government, against IMF advice, has engaged in excessive public spending, running up the country's national debt and fueling inflation.
Protests and a backlash to economic reforms are being waged in many South
American countries besides Argentina. In Brazil, 40,000 anti-free market
protestors marched on the capital in June. Venezuela's leader berated
the free market during a national radio broadcast. Surveys in Argentina
show 70 percent of the population is against further reductions in trade
barriers. Argentina's standard of living has suffered and Argentina will
have to undergo serious reforms in order to avoid financial crises and
live up to its potential.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
|Source||Anthony Faiola, "Argentina Doubts Market Wisdom," The Washington Post, August 6, 2001.|
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