Latin America’s Era of Milk and Honey

It seems that Latin America's popular left-wing nationalist governments have discovered that fiscal stability and reducing debt constitute the key to political autonomy and economic independence. But if the neo-liberal Washington Consensus has been forgotten, perhaps it wasn’t because its tenets were misguided, but because globalization offered an opportunity to realize them without having to suffer the humiliation of a shrinking economy.

Whenever signs of change appear in Latin America’s economies, people ask if the change will be transitory or permanent. Driven mainly by the almost insatiable appetites of China and India, a profound burst of growth has come to Latin America. Over the past five years, Chile’s GDP has been expanding 5% annually, Argentina’s by almost 9%, Venezuela’s by more than 10%, and the Andean Community’s by 6%. The continent’s aggregate growth, at 4.5%, is expected to lag behind the world average of 5% in 2007, but only because the largest countries, Mexico and Brazil, are growing more slowly.

One regular aspect of post-war Latin America has been that such bonanzas have been undermined by large current account deficits, and thus indebtedness. But that is not happening this time. Latin America will finish 2007 with a current account surplus and growing foreign-currency reserves, insulating them from financial crisis. On the one hand, world trade is growing, and so are Latin America’s exports. On the other hand, the terms of trade have improved.

High commodity prices have benefited producers of oil and gas (such as Venezuela and Bolivia) and minerals (such as Chile). Moreover, producers of foodstuffs (such as Argentina and Uruguay), which suffered for decades, are now gaining from notable biogenetic innovations that increased arable land area. There is also a surprising phenomenon that favors everyone: prices of technology-based capital assets imported by Latin America have been falling throughout the past decade.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. Television sets showing a news report on Xi Jinping's speech Anthony Wallace/Getty Images

    Empowering China’s New Miracle Workers

    China’s success in the next five years will depend largely on how well the government manages the tensions underlying its complex agenda. In particular, China’s leaders will need to balance a muscular Communist Party, setting standards and protecting the public interest, with an empowered market, driving the economy into the future.

  2. United States Supreme Court Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images

    The Sovereignty that Really Matters

    The preference of some countries to isolate themselves within their borders is anachronistic and self-defeating, but it would be a serious mistake for others, fearing contagion, to respond by imposing strict isolation. Even in states that have succumbed to reductionist discourses, much of the population has not.

  3.  The price of Euro and US dollars Daniel Leal Olivas/Getty Images

    Resurrecting Creditor Adjustment

    When the Bretton Woods Agreement was hashed out in 1944, it was agreed that countries with current-account deficits should be able to limit temporarily purchases of goods from countries running surpluses. In the ensuing 73 years, the so-called "scarce-currency clause" has been largely forgotten; but it may be time to bring it back.

  4. Leaders of the Russian Revolution in Red Square Keystone France/Getty Images

    Trump’s Republican Collaborators

    Republican leaders have a choice: they can either continue to collaborate with President Donald Trump, thereby courting disaster, or they can renounce him, finally putting their country’s democracy ahead of loyalty to their party tribe. They are hardly the first politicians to face such a decision.

  5. Angela Merkel, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron John Thys/Getty Images

    How Money Could Unblock the Brexit Talks

    With talks on the UK's withdrawal from the EU stalled, negotiators should shift to the temporary “transition” Prime Minister Theresa May officially requested last month. Above all, the negotiators should focus immediately on the British budget contributions that will be required to make an orderly transition possible.

  6. Ksenia Sobchak Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    Is Vladimir Putin Losing His Grip?

    In recent decades, as President Vladimir Putin has entrenched his authority, Russia has seemed to be moving backward socially and economically. But while the Kremlin knows that it must reverse this trajectory, genuine reform would be incompatible with the kleptocratic character of Putin’s regime.

  7. Right-wing parties hold conference Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

    Rage Against the Elites

    • With the advantage of hindsight, four recent books bring to bear diverse perspectives on the West’s current populist moment. 
    • Taken together, they help us to understand what that moment is and how it arrived, while reminding us that history is contingent, not inevitable

    Global Bookmark

    Distinguished thinkers review the world’s most important new books on politics, economics, and international affairs.

  8. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Bill Clark/Getty Images

    Don’t Bank on Bankruptcy for Banks

    As a part of their efforts to roll back the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, congressional Republicans have approved a measure that would have courts, rather than regulators, oversee megabank bankruptcies. It is now up to the Trump administration to decide if it wants to set the stage for a repeat of the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008.