La verdadera materia prima de la riqueza

TIRANA – Los países pobres exportan materias primas en bruto, como cacao, hierro y diamantes. Los países ricos exportan -con frecuencia a esos mismos países pobres- productos más elaborados, como chocolates, automóviles y joyas. Si los países pobres quieren hacerse ricos deberían dejar de exportar sus recursos naturales en bruto y concentrarse en agregarles valor. De lo contrario, los países ricos se quedarán con la mayor parte del valor y con todos los buenos empleos. Una forma de lograr esto es siguiendo el ejemplo de Sudáfrica y de Botsuana y emplear la riqueza natural para forzar la industrialización aguas abajo a través de restricciones a la exportación de minerales en bruto, una política que llaman "beneficiación".

Son estas ideas acertadas o erradas? La verdad es que hay ideas que son aún peor que erradas, son castrantes. Esas ideas hacen que uno enfatice las cuestiones secundarias -por ejemplo, la disponibilidad de materias primas- pero impiden ver las oportunidades más prometedoras que existen en otros ámbitos.

Tomemos como ejemplo a Finlandia, un país nórdico donde existe una enorme cantidad de árboles en relación a su escasa población. Un economista clásico diría que, en vista de esto, Finlandia debiera exportar madera, cosa que ha hecho. En contraste, un economista del desarrollo tradicional diría que Finlandia no debe exportar madera en bruto, sino agregarle valor, transformándola en productos como papel o muebles, cosa que este país también ha hecho. Sin embargo, los productos relacionados con la madera representan apenas el 20% de las exportaciones de Finlandia.

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