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China y su futuro como país de altos ingresos

LONDRES – «¿Y si estar mejor es imposible?», pregunta Jack Nicholson mientras camina a través de la sala de espera de su psiquiatra en la película «Mejor... imposible». En el reciente encuentro de los ministros de finanzas del G20 en Shanghái, los participantes se preguntaban en gran medida lo mismo (y no solo respecto de las expectativas a mediano plazo por el débil crecimiento mundial). Muchos se están preguntando si la actual tasa de crecimiento china será lo mejor que se puede estar durante un largo tiempo.

Para determinar la validez de esos temores hay que entender la causa de la desaceleración económica de ese país. Están quienes ofrecen una explicación sencilla: China, junto con otras grandes economías emergentes, ha quedado atrapada en la temida «trampa del ingreso medio» y es incapaz de convertirse en una economía avanzada. Pero esto supone que alguna fuerza o tendencia exógena lleva a que los países queden «atrapados» en un cierto nivel de ingresos, una postura que un estudio académico tras otro han desacreditado.

Ciertamente, los países encuentran con frecuencia dificultades para alcanzar la categoría de altos ingresos. Según el Banco Mundial, solo 13 de los 101 países clasificados como de ingresos medios en 1960 habían logrado pasar al grupo de altos ingresos en 2008. Además, algunos países con ingresos medios, después de un prometedor crecimiento, pasaron décadas «atrapados» en un cierto nivel de ingresos per cápita. El crecimiento del ingreso per cápita de Argentina, por ejemplo, fue similar al estadounidense entre 1870 y 1940; desde entonces, la brecha no ha hecho más que ampliarse. De esta manera, incluso los países que logran ser clasificados como de altos ingresos a veces regresan a niveles de ingresos medios.

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