El nuevo reto del crecimiento de América Latina

Desde 2003 que las economías de América Latina han experimentado un periodo de prosperidad, con un PIB -incluidas las estimaciones para 2006- que llega a un 17%: un índice promedio de crecimiento anual de 4,3% y un aumento del 12% del PBI per cápita. Si bien estas cifras no dejan de impresionar, esta es sólo la segunda vez en 25 años que América Latina ha tenido cuatro años consecutivos de crecimiento económico positivo. ¿Continuarán los buenos tiempos?

El crecimiento reciente ha estado impulsado por una fuerte alza de los precios de los productos básicos, o commodities, entre los que se incluyen no sólo los recursos energéticos como el petróleo, el gas y el carbón, sino también metales, minerales y productos agrícolas. La creciente demanda de materias primas, debido al abrupto crecimiento industrial ocurrido en Asia, en particular en China e India, ha beneficiado los términos del intercambio comercial de varios países latinoamericanos, y no parece que este panorama vaya a cambiar en el futuro próximo.

Históricamente, en tiempos como estos tiende a predominar el despilfarro fiscal, en que los abundantes ingresos se malgastan en extravagantes proyectos públicos. Sin embargo, esta vez no es así... al menos no hasta el momento. En las siete principales economías de América Latina (Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, México, Perú y Venezuela), que en su conjunto dan cuenta de casi el 90% del PIB regional, el crecimiento económico anual alcanzó un promedio de 6% en el tercer trimestre de 2006, mientras que la producción industrial aumentó llegó a un 8%. Sin embargo, sus gobiernos parecen estar aprovechando la bonanza para pagar su deuda externa pendiente y aumentar sus reservas externas.

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