Adiós al “nirvana” de los emergentes

SANTIAGO – Allá por los años setenta, el gran economista de la Universidad de Yale Carlos Díaz‑Alejandro solía decir que para los países en desarrollo, la combinación de precios altos para los recursos naturales, bajas tasas de interés en el mundo y abundancia de liquidez internacional sería el equivalente económico a alcanzar el nirvana. Por entonces no había un solo economista serio que creyera posible la llegada de semejante estado de gracia. Pero llegó; y a lo largo de la década pasada, los países productores de bienes transables, como Brasil, Indonesia, Rusia y Sudáfrica, se hicieron un festín con la abundancia de sus beneficios.

Pero ahora parece que el nirvana se está acabando: los precios de los recursos naturales bajaron y la mera posibilidad de que la Reserva Federal de los Estados Unidos ponga fin a su política de flexibilización cuantitativa produjo un alza de las tasas de interés en los países ricos y una fuga de capitales desde los otrora predilectos mercados emergentes a destinos más seguros en el norte. Los mercados bursátiles y los tipos de cambio se han venido abajo, no solamente en los países emergentes con abundancia de recursos naturales, sino también en otros como India y Turquía que antes habían atraído grandes flujos de capital extranjero. Los pesimistas ya predicen la repetición de la crisis asiática de fines de los noventa o, peor aún, una réplica de la crisis de los países avanzados en 2008-2009, esta vez en los mercados emergentes.

Lo que tienen en común las economías más afectadas es abultados déficits externos. La entrada de capitales en abundancia provocó una apreciación de sus monedas, lo que abarató las importaciones y dio rienda suelta a escaladas del consumo (y a veces, de la inversión) que debilitaron sus balanzas comerciales, contrarrestando el aumento de valor de sus exportaciones impulsado por el alza de precios de los commodities.

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