¿Qué Estuvo Mal en Argentina?

Mientras la economía de Argentina se resquebraja en manifestaciones, saqueos en busca de comida y tumultos políticos, la sabiduría convencional sugiere que la culpa es de la letal combinación de un gasto gubernamental descuidado y una tasa de cambio fija. Los amplios déficits fiscales, según este argumento, aceleraron la demanda doméstica, lo que incrementó la inflación y causó que el peso se apreciara en términos reales, a pesar de que estaba indexado al dólar estadounidense a una tasa nominal de cambio uno a uno. Conforme creció la deuda pública, la única esperanza que el gobierno tenía de pagarla era aplicar una restricción deflacionaria al dinero y al crédito disponibles, haciendo casi inevitables el colapso de la producción, el elevado desempleo y los desórdenes civiles.

Este razonamiento es factible porque el desalineamiento de la tasa de cambio podría en efecto estar en el corazón mismo de los problemas de Argentina (aunque por razones muy distintas que no exploraremos aquí, uno estaba asociado con un paro repentino de flujos de capital). Pero el libertinaje fiscal en sí mismo no puede explicar el desmoronamiento de Argentina.

A lo largo de la década de 1990 el déficit presupuestario de Argentina nunca excedió el 2% del PIB, excepto en 1999, cuando alcanzó 2.5%, antes de caer de vuelta a 2.4% en el 2000. A pesar de que los préstamos solicitados por el sector público presionaron la deuda externa de 28.4% del PIB en 1991 a 51.4% en el 2000, esto todavía puede compararse favorablemente con países conocidos por su probidad fiscal. La Unión Europea (UE), por ejemplo, requiere que sus estados miembros limiten los déficits presupuestarios y la deuda pública a 3% y 60% del PIB respectivamente. Además, como la indexación al dólar de Argentina, la mayoría de los países de la UE abandonaron el control de sus tasas de cambio al adoptar el Euro. Pero nadie sugiere que Alemania, Francia o Italia estén en riesgo de compartir el destino de Argentina.

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