¿Y ahora quién es dependiente?

Si el gran economista argentino Raul Prebisch viviera actualmente, sin duda se preguntaría si el mundo está al revés. Su teoría de la "dependencia", que tuvo una gran influencia, argumentaba que si los países pobres dependían demasiado de la exportación de productos primarios nunca alcanzarían la profundidad industrial necesaria para sostener un crecimiento acelerado. Se empantanarían, en cambio, en un ciclo de precios decrecientes de las materias primas a nivel global y una participación cada vez menor de los ingresos.

La respuesta de política favorita de Prebisch, el proteccionismo, resultó desastrosa para los muchos países latinoamericanos y africanos que le hicieron caso. Pero el hecho es que durante muchos años, Prebisch parecía haber predicho acertadamente las tendencias a largo plazo de los precios de los productos primarios. Los implacables avances en la agricultura y la extracción de recursos presionaron a la baja los precios de las materias primas, sobre todo durante los años ochenta y noventa. Con pocas excepciones, los países que se concentraban en la exportación de esos productos tuvieron desempeños muy pobres, mientras que muchos países asiáticos con pocos recursos se adelantaron.

Sin embargo, hoy en día, a medida que los gigantes asiáticos, India y China, se unen a la economía global, los precios del petróleo, el oro, el trigo y casi todas las demás materias primas están aumentando de manera explosiva. Si bien siempre habrá ciclos --por ejemplo, los precios del petróleo probablemente caerán antes de que vuelvan a empezar a elevarse-- la tendencia de largo plazo de muchos productos primarios se mantendrá claramente al alza durante algún tiempo.

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