Perdiendo la carrera por la inversión directa

América Latina se encuentra en serios problemas en lo que se refiere a inversión extranjera directa (IED). Es cierto que la IED hacia el continente alcanzó cerca de US$ 70 mil millones en 2006, pero esa cifra está por debajo del pico de 1998-1999, y una gran proporción provino de empresas latinoamericanas que invierten en países vecinos, mientras que han disminuido los flujos procedentes de Europa y Estados Unidos. Muchas compañías se están yendo de la región y no se han materializado las grandes inversiones prometidas por China, particularmente en Brasil.

En su punto máximo en los años 80, y nuevamente en los 90, la proporción destinada a América Latina de la IED total global llegó al 17%. Hoy es apenas el 8% (en 2006), después de promediar 11% en los cinco años anteriores. Entre los países en desarrollo, la proporción de América Latina de IED global también decreció radicalmente, de 40-50% en los años 70 a cerca de la mitad en 2006.

Quizás el desafío de políticas más urgente de la región es reabordar los problemas del alto desempleo y las grandes dimensiones de los sectores informales –donde se produce casi la mitad de los bienes y servicios-, particularmente debido a que la mayor parte de la inversión y el crecimiento de las empresas locales está relacionado con los altos precios de los productos básicos, que poca incidencia tienen en la creación de nuevos empleos. De manera similar, los flujos de entrada de IED se han estado ampliando sólo en sectores de uso intensivo de recursos, mientras que se han reducido en el área servicios y prácticamente se ha estancado en el área manufacturera.

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