Artículos y comentarios sobre la Economía Mexicana
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Desaceleración

Mayo 26th, 2011 | Posted by Jonathan Heath in Pulso Económico - (0 Comments)

La semana pasada comentamos que el crecimiento económico del primer trimestre del año, visto a través del PIB, fue de 2.1% respecto al último trimestre del año pasado y que refleja una franca desaceleración.  La tendencia cíclica del PIB sigue siendo positiva, pero cada vez su tasa de crecimiento es menor al trimestre anterior.  En términos matemáticos, la segunda derivada ha sido negativa en los últimos seis trimestres. (más…)

El PIB es la medida más comprensiva de la actividad económica de un país y, por lo mismo, el mejor indicador de su comportamiento general y del tamaño en sí de la economía.  Como consecuencia, es el rey de los indicadores económicos, el más citado y el que mejor da una imagen de la marcha macroeconómica en el momento.  El INEGI acaba de anunciar que el PIB creció 0.5% en el primer trimestre del año.  ¿Qué significa esta tasa? (más…)

El PIB es la medida más comprensiva de la actividad económica de un país y, por lo mismo, el mejor indicador de su comportamiento general y del tamaño en sí de la economía.  Como consecuencia, es el rey de los indicadores económicos, el más citado y el que mejor da una imagen de la marcha macroeconómica en el momento.  No obstante, su elaboración es compleja y requiere levantar mucha información a nivel nacional.  Por lo mismo, se elabora únicamente con una periodicidad trimestral.  El problema radica en que el análisis coyuntural necesita incorporar información mucho más oportuna. (más…)

En su manual de la balanza de pagos, el Fondo Monetario Internacional establece que un inversionista necesita adquirir por lo menos 10% de las acciones de una empresa para que se considere inversión directa.  Si el monto es menor a este porcentaje se considera inversión de cartera.  Aunque el establecimiento de un umbral para distinguir entre los dos pudiera parecer arbitrario, la naturaleza de ambas es muy distinta.  Mientras que a IED va dirigida a una inversión de mediano a largo plazo con cierto arraigo en el país, la de cartera se asocia con flexibilidad y transitoriedad. (más…)

Como comentamos el mes pasado, la tasa de desempleo se define como la proporción o porcentaje de la Población Económicamente Activa (PEA), que no tiene trabajo y que busca activamente tener una ocupación.  Para ser considerado parte de la PEA se tiene que tener presencia en el mercado laboral, ya sea como empleado (ocupado) o realizando una acción de búsqueda de trabajo.  Por lo mismo, para considerar a una persona como “desempleada”, no es suficiente estar en una situación específica (que es no trabajar), sino es necesario un comportamiento (adoptar acciones de búsqueda de trabajo).  En otras palabras, el desempleo involucra una situación (no tener trabajo) y un comportamiento (buscar activamente un empleo). (más…)

Los primeros esfuerzos por medir el desempleo en México se iniciaron en 1972 con la Encuesta Nacional en Hogares.  Sin embargo, a pesar de levantar encuestas sobre la materia por casi 40 años, prácticamente no hay un indicador económico de coyuntura en el país que sea más criticado y que goza de menos credibilidad que la tasa de desempleo.  La razón principal es el nivel tan bajo que reporta mes tras mes, especialmente en comparación a otros países. (más…)

 

 

This article revisits the topic of Mexico’s recurring crises, originally addressed by the author in the book “Mexico and the Sexenio Curse: Presidential Successions and Economic Crises in Modern Mexico,” written in 1999 and published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, D.C.

Introduction

 

Mexico has endured numerous crises over the past 40 years. The most interesting characteristic of these crises is that there has been one in each presidential term (known in Mexico as “sexenios,” as they last six years) since 1970 to date.Some of them have fit the classic balance-of-payments crisis model, due mostly to the presence of large fiscal deficits. In these cases, the transmission mechanism usually started from ever-increasing public-sector borrowing requirements, causing disequilibria in fiscal and external accounts, and finally finishing with large exchange rate adjustments. The crises usually erupted with soaring inflation and a severe recession. Others have fit a second-generation crisis model implicating self-fulfilling prophecy mechanisms. In these cases, crises would result more from negative expectations than from large fiscal and external disequilibria. As of late, however, the crises do not seem to follow any model in particular, but merely seem to keep appearing, making it seem like a true curse that the country cannot escape.

 

 

 

 

 

At first, the sexenio curse was defined in terms of a currency crisis occurring either in the last year of the outgoing, or in the first year of the incoming presidential term. Large fiscal deficits were very common throughout the six-year term, leading to important macroeconomic imbalances. Sometimes the president would try to correct the disequilibria prior to finishing his term. When this did not happen, however, the incoming president would face a very difficult environment characterized by capital flight, forcing the new administration to take corrective action that caused the ensuing crisis.

After almost three decades of this behavioral pattern, it seemed that the Mexican government had finally learned that fiscal deficits are not only unsustainable, but also cause near irreparable damage. In fact, the repetitive cycle of crises finally pushed the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) from office after 71 years of uninterrupted power. One of the worst, and perhaps the most famous crises, known as the Tequila Crisis of 1995, not only led to the defeat of the PRI in the 2000 presidential elections, but also brought about a relentless crisis-prevention policy, carried out by President Ernesto Zedillo from 1997 to 2000, prior to the elections. He pursued a floating exchange rate, a prudent monetary policy and a very low fiscal deficit, carefully avoiding any macroeconomic imbalances. His obsession with avoiding yet another crisis led to investment-grade recognition for Mexico just prior to the 2000 elections. At that moment, it finally seemed that Mexico had broken the sexenio curse.

When Vicente Fox was elected president in July 2000, the Mexican economy was growing above 7%, with a single-digit inflation rate, a healthy balance of payments and a primary fiscal surplus. By the time he took office in December, however, the economy was in recession. While this recession was not characterized by a sharp correction in the exchange rate, increasing inflation or balance-of-payments problems, it did turn out to be the longest in recorded history, lasting a total of 36 months.

 

 

 Given that all previous recessions had been characterized by currency crises, and basically had been caused by faulty domestic policy decisions, this one was perceived as an exception. It was seen as externally driven, brought on by the U.S. recession that formally started in March 2001. The 2001 U.S. recession, however, lasted only eight months and was shorter than the post-World War II average of eleven months. Why then did the Mexican recession start six months earlier and continue into 2003?

 

In 2006, when presidential elections once again took place, the economy managed to grow 5.1%, its best performance since 2000. Once President Felipe Calderón took office, however, the economy slowed down significantly and fell into a shallow recession starting in January 2008. There is little doubt that the United States was once again responsible, as it had fallen into recession starting December 2007. Once the Lehman bankruptcy of August 2008 pushed the United States into a much deeper recession, not only did most of the world follow suit, but Mexico’s recession deepened remarkably. In 2009 Mexico’s GDP fell 6.5%, by far the largest decline in all of Latin America, and among the worst in the world. This time the currency depreciated over 50% from peak to trough. But most importantly, it meant that Mexico had not escaped a recession during each presidential term since the 1960s. It seems that Mexico is still plagued by the sexenio  curse. The only difference is that now the crises have different characteristics.

 

 

The Aftermath of the Tequila Crisis

 

The eighties represented a lost decade for Mexico. Debt ratios showed Mexico as severely indebted. Fiscal deficits were very high. Inflation reached triple digits and average growth for the decade was basically zero. Although the government carried out far-reaching reforms that helped stabilize the country, progress had not yet been consolidated in the first half of the 1990s. As a result, when many negative political and economic events hit Mexico in 1994, the economy was still very vulnerable to external and domestic shocks. Policy errors made at the end of 1994 and the beginning of 1995 compounded the situation and the so-called Tequila Crisis erupted.

 

Although the current account deficit was very large and played an important role, the fiscal deficit was not that high. Nevertheless, the government had not been transparent enough with its fiscal accounts. Once off-budget items were brought into the picture, the government’s deficit turned out to be bigger than what had been perceived by the public. The government also lacked transparency with regard to its foreign-exchange reserves, generating much distrust that triggered self-fulfilling prophecy mechanisms that definitely made the crisis much worse than it should have been. In other words, negative expectations erupted, causing capital flight and a large devaluation of the currency. As a result, inflation went from 7% to 52% and interest rates followed suit. Economic activity collapsed by 6.2% and unemployment soared.

 

Nevertheless, the greatest damage was inflicted on the banking system. Inflation started declining in 1996 and eventually reached new lows. Economic growth averaged 5.5% during the following five years. The exchange rate stabilized and by the next decade the peso gained a reputation as a relatively strong currency. The banking sector, however, suffered irreparable damage: the credit market collapsed and has truly never recovered. The size of commercial banking credit to the non-financial private sector in 2010 is not even 40%, in terms of GDP, of what it was in 1994 and today remains one of the lowest in all of Latin America.

 

The collapse of the credit market in 1995 brought about an almost systemic bankruptcy of the banking system in Mexico. The system as such survived though, thanks to the costly and controversial measurements taken by the government to restructure, recapitalize and rescue most banks. The legal framework and banking regulations were reformed and strengthened. Foreign capital was the main source used to recapitalize banks and today most banks in Mexico remain foreign owned. The banking system recovered quite well to the point that it survived the 2008/2009 U.S. financial meltdown and its global repercussions. The Mexican banking system posted relatively good profits during this crisis and remains well capitalized.

 

We must underline, however, a basic distinction between a healthy banking system and credit markets. Banks in general recovered in terms of capital ratios, profit margins, risk coverage and all the fundamental indicators that one looks at to judge a bank. Banks have remained healthy, but have since adopted a very conservative and low-risk approach concerning loan decisions. Many businesses remain wary of banks and look for other sources for working capital. As a result, the credit market as such has never really recovered.

 

Under previous methodology, direct credit from commercial banks to the non-financial private sector posted a high of 40.9% of GDP in the last quarter of 1994 and reached a low of 6.9% of GDP in the second quarter of 2002. From peak to trough, real direct credit collapsed 78.3% (from December 1994 to April 2002). After eight years of contraction, it finally started growing again in 2003. Nevertheless, at the end of 2009, real direct credit was only 59.5% of what it was at the end of 1994.

 

Revised methodology (GDP was revised as of 2003 and data are not comparable to previous years) does not allow a true comparison of data before and after 2003. Nevertheless, the numbers are not radically different and the trend remains the same. Still, given that nominal GDP was revised upwards, the size of the credit market as a percentage of GDP is now perceived as smaller. If we use a comparable estimate of nominal GDP under the previous methodology, direct credit stands at around 13.4% of GDP at Q4 2009. Using the revised GDP data, the ratio declines to 13.2%. If we add in the credit given through non-bank financial entities and the assets associated with restructuring programs, the private sector credit market represents 14.1% of GDP. Comparable data for other countries show Brazil at 45%, Chile at 65% and Panama at 94% of their GDPs.

 

The banking system was privatized between 1991 and 1992, at about the same time that the government managed to balance its budget and thus no longer required financing from banks. This meant that the newly privatized banks were highly liquid and had a lot of resources to lend. As a result, credit to the private sector increased very rapidly in the following years. When the Tequila Crisis erupted in 1995, it found many overleveraged firms and over indebted families facing huge increases in interest payments at a time when inflation was increasing at a much faster pace than salaries. As a result, nonperforming assets of the banking system reached staggering proportions and banks became grossly undercapitalized. The government reacted by implementing a series of policies aimed at avoiding a systemic bankruptcy and salvaging the financial sector.

 

The biggest miscalculation of the government, however, was in terms of the moral hazard issue behind its efforts. Debtors soon found out that they could stop payments to the bank with few consequences. As a result, nonperforming assets continued to grow and the credit market collapsed. Debtors discovered that legislation was weak, did little to enforce payments and only vaguely protected property rights. This led to a “no payment culture,” a phenomenon that not only destroyed the credit market, but also set a precedent that basically impaired its comeback. While the economy recovered from this crisis, the credit market never really did.

 

Today, the Tequila Crisis seems just part of Mexico’s history, something that happened long ago and that most people have forgotten. The aftermath of this crisis, however, was the permanent damage it did to the credit market. This is one of the main reasons why Mexico has underperformed in terms of economic growth over the past decade and has an upper boundary on growth going forward.

 

Many have stressed the absence of crucial structural reforms as the main impediment to higher growth. While most of these reforms (fiscal, labor, energy, political and regulatory, to mention the most talked about) are very likely to help, they are not the main hurdle to better performance. Many countries in Latin America are in dire need of fiscal reforms, labor flexibility and face similar challenges to those faced by Mexico, yet they are growing at much higher rates. Mexico’s biggest limitation is the lack of credit for the private sector, especially for the small- and medium-size firms that do not export and that represent the backbone of the domestic economy.

 

Fox’s Recession

 

After a decline of 6.2% in GDP in 1995, the Mexican economy grew an average of 5.5% per annum over the following five years. How can we explain this good performance in the midst of a destroyed credit market? The combination of a highly undervalued currency, the onset of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and a dynamic U.S. economy permitted Mexico’s exports to grow at a double-digit rate between 1995 and 2000. Most of Mexico’s exports are carried out by multinational firms with access to world credit markets and financing from their head offices. At the same time, because of their international position, these firms are considered low risk, which facilitates their access to credit. As a result, they were able to grow quite fast during the export boom and became Mexico’s main engine of growth. Small- and medium-sized firms, on the other hand, did not have access to international credit markets and represented high risk, especially in the aftermath of the Tequila Crisis.

 

If we analyze Mexico’s growth over the past 15 years, we find not only that the export market has always outperformed the domestic market, but also that non-oil exports are basically Mexico’s only engine of growth. The domestic economy is not strong enough to grow on its own, so that when export demand slows down, the whole economy follows suit. Most foreign investment goes to building up Mexico’s export capabilities and little, if any, is channeled into non-export sectors. Finally, a high proportion of working capital and credit received by small- and medium-sized firms is obtained through other companies that provide lenient payment conditions through the production chain. If the large export firms slow down, this source of credit diminishes.

 

Over time, Mexico’s dependency on its export market has grown significantly. Mexico’s exports are fundamentally manufactured goods with a high content of imported inputs. Given the high proportion of exports that go to the United States, Mexico became not only dependent on the U.S. economy, but more specifically, on the U.S. manufacturing sector. At the same time, one sector (automotive) represents around 25% of total manufacturing exports. At first, with the introduction of NAFTA, this sector was able to grow quite fast as Mexico captured a bigger share of the market. The automobile sector in the United States, however, is not a high growth market and it is very competitive. As a result, this sector’s contribution to growth has slowed down over time.

 

The high correlation between Mexico and the United States is not through GDP, but rather through manufacturing production. If we look at the U.S. business cycle in 2000 and 2001, we find that U.S. manufacturing peaks in June 2000 and shows a definite downward trend starting in the second half of the that year, around nine months prior to the official start of the U.S. recession. Mexico’s manufacturing production peaks in July 2000, one month after the United States, but enters into recession in October of the same year, six months prior to the United States.

 

A similar pattern is observed upon examination of the business cycles over the following two years. U.S. manufacturing reaches a low in November 2001 and then starts growing again. This coincides with the end of the U.S. recession, which officially lasted 8 months. Most analysts agree that the recovery started because of a boost in private consumption, fueled by fiscal and monetary policies. Average growth in 2002-03 in the United States was slightly above 2%, indicating a still relatively weak economy. Manufacturing production, however, grew 3.7% for 7 months (from November 2001 to June 2002) and then stagnated for the following 12 months. The average growth from June 2002 to June 2003 was 0.02%. This stagnation was blamed in part on the corporate governance scandals (WorldCom, Enron, etc.) that brought private investment to a standstill. The U.S. economy did not return to recession, however, given that private consumption sustained a weak but growing economy.

 

Given that the link between Mexico and the United States is mostly through manufacturing, the U.S. stagnation stopped Mexico from having a formal recovery, and a shallow recession continued until September 2003. The growth in U.S. consumption was enough to lift the United States out of recession, but it was not enough to do the same for Mexico. Another factor that played an important role was the emergence of China as a world manufacturing player, competing directly with Mexico. When the U.S. recession started in 2001, many assembly plants in Mexico were relocated to China (and other places), taking advantage of lower labor costs and other competitive advantages. While South America benefited greatly from the subsequent commodity boom (2002-2008) with enhanced exports, Mexico was faced with greater competition and non-oil export growth was much lower.

 

To summarize, there is little doubt that Mexico’s 2000-03 recession was induced by the United States. Nevertheless, the pro-cyclical pattern and greater duration of Mexico’s recession compared to that of the United States were more likely due to the absence of a strong domestic economy than to an export sector heavily dependent on the United States. Mexico’s ebullient export capacity has to be seen as an important asset; the lack of credit and a resulting weak domestic economy are the true problems.

 

Calderón’s Recession

 

Economic growth during Vicente Fox’s sexenio registered an average 2.4%, divided into two distinct periods: the first three years saw an average of 0.7% growth and the last three saw an average of 4.1%. As is common in Mexico, the last year of the sexenio (election year) showed the highest GDP growth rate of Fox’s six-year term, reaching 5.1%. Thus, at least in theory, Fox handed over a relatively healthy economy to his successor. Not only was the economy growing, but inflation was also under control at 4.1%, the current account deficit was quite low at 0.5% of GDP, and the fiscal primary balance registered a surplus of 2.5% of GDP, the highest since 1997. In other words, for the second sexenio in a row, the macroeconomic balance was quite good.

Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006. In his first year in office, signs of an imminent bust in the U.S. housing market appeared. As a result, the U.S. economy slowed down, and more particularly, industrial production decelerated, causing the U.S. demand for Mexican exports to decrease. Non-oil exports grew almost 8% in 2007, about half the rate that they had in 2006. As Mexico’s main engine of growth lost momentum, GDP growth slowed to 3.3%.

 

The United States fell into recession the following year, albeit, it was a relatively mild one in the beginning. Nevertheless, the Mexican economy slowed even further, registering a growth rate of only 1.3%. As a result, the first two years of the Calderón administration saw an average growth of 2.3%, slightly below the six-year average of the previous sexenio. At the same time, the rest of Latin America was growing at above average rates, benefitting immensely from the commodity boom. Of the 18 largest economies of Latin America, Mexico was showing the lowest growth of all.

 

 

The U.S. recession deepened sharply in Q4 2008, when the government allowed Lehman Brothers to go bankrupt. The Mexican economy immediately followed suit and fell into a much deeper recession. Although a trough occurred in May 2009, and the economy began a timid recovery, GDP for the year fell 6.5%, slightly more than the decline registered in 1995. While the first contagion mechanism was through a sharp decline in demand for Mexican exports, Mexico was affected through three additional transmission channels. First, an overexposure to the foreign exchange derivatives market brought about an estimated U.S. $13 billion shortfall in foreign exchange, pushing the exchange rate into a tailspin. Second, world liquidity dried up fast, reducing capital flows into the country and forcing further depreciation of the currency. Finally, both business and consumer expectations were hit hard by the sharp currency depreciation, the retrenchment in liquidity and the deteriorating world outlook.

 

At the onset of the crisis, Mexico and Brazil were two of the hardest hit countries. Previous experiences with sharp depreciations of the currency had always led to higher inflation, a deep recession and increasing unemployment. Nevertheless, Brazil was able to bounce back quite quickly because of its dynamic domestic economy. Mexico, however, was unable to do the same, given its weak domestic economy, a result of its small domestic credit market. In the second half of 2009 and the first half of 2010, U.S. demand for Mexican exports increased significantly, leading to the start of its recovery. Nevertheless, investment and private consumption have remained stagnant, due to insufficient credit.

 

The outlook for 2010 in terms of GDP growth looks relatively good. A high GDP growth rate is expected, but mostly because of a very favorable base comparison (economic activity fell substantially in 2009). Once the base comparison effect wears off, GDP growth (in 2011) is expected to remain near 3%. If some of the pending structural reforms (i.e., labor, fiscal and energy) are approved, GDP may do marginally better. Nevertheless, the true and main limit to higher growth is the size of the credit market, something that will not change quickly.

 

The Curse Lives On

 

This assessment of the Mexican economy concludes that Mexico’s growth will remain limited until the penetration of the credit market returns to an acceptable level. A word of caution must nevertheless be given to both the banking system and the government. While favorable government policy can help foster the process, credit growth must be carried out at a rate that can be adequately absorbed by the banking system and the economy. Rapid credit growth in the past has led to disequilibrium in many areas, causing major problems. Banks need to worry about nonperforming asset growth, adequate risk provisions and solid capital ratios.

 

The government’s efforts must focus primarily on reducing systemic credit risks, such as reinforcing the rule of law, improving property rights, implementing adequate deregulation and creating a macroeconomic environment that leads to higher country investment grades. If the government wants to reduce the cost of lending, it must concentrate on reducing the risk factors involved in the credit market. Its current strategy of trying to induce banks to increase lending through moral persuasion is useless. Further regulation placing limits on interest rates or other parameters will most likely impede credit growth and create perverse incentives.

 

Finally, low credit penetration is not the only factor behind a relatively weak domestic economy. The government must work with the private sector in order to enhance its ability to grow and not pursue policies that crowd out entrepreneurial incentives. Pending structural reforms are likely to help, but must be complemented with measures that induce further private investment.

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All statements of fact or expression of opinion contained in this publication are the exclusive responsibility of the author.

 

El Indicador IMEF fue desarrollado originalmente por Jonathan Heath y Lorena Dominguez en 2003.   Es un índice de difusión que busca cuantificar el entorno económico con base en una encuesta de cinco preguntas cualitativas.  En particular, el Indicador IMEF está construido para ayudar a anticipar la dirección de la actividad manufacturera y no manufacturera en México y, a partir de la evolución esperada de esos sectores, inferir la posible evolución de la economía en general en el corto plazo.  No obstante, el mensaje principal de los movimientos de este indicador, es simplemente de “aumentar” o “disminuir”, sin ofrecer una medida precisa sobre el desempeño esperado.

El Indicador IMEF varía en un intervalo de 0 a 100 puntos y el nivel de 50 puntos representa el umbral entre una expansión (mayor a 50) y una contracción (menor a 50), de la actividad económica.  En principio, cuando el índice se encuentra por encima del umbral, un aumento se interpreta como señal de una expansión futura más rápida; cuando el índice se encuentra por debajo del umbral, un decremento se interpreta como señal de una contracción futura más lenta.  No obstante, el indicador no proporciona información específica sobre la magnitud de los cambios esperados.

El responsable principal de la elaboración del Indicador IMEF es el Comité Técnico del Indicador IMEF del Instituto Mexicano de Ejecutivos de Finanzas (IMEF), que cuenta con el apoyo técnico y normativo del INEGI.  El INEGI elabora los ajustes por frecuencia de días, estacionalidad y tendencia-ciclo, mientras que el Comité Técnico ofrece una interpretación oportuna del indicador, analiza aspectos técnicos, metodológicos y operativos, asegura su continuidad y evalúa su eficacia.  Este comité está integrado por especialistas de los sectores privado, público y académico.

Entre las características que distinguen al Indicador IMEF, destaca que forma parte de una nueva generación de estadísticas de bajo costo, al eliminar los gastos asociados a la aplicación y procesamiento de encuestas.  Tales labores son realizadas por el IMEF mediante medios electrónicos y aprovechando su red de afiliados.

La difusión del Indicador IMEF es oportuna.  Mensualmente el Comité Técnico edita un boletín en el que informa los resultados de la última encuesta.  Los resultados se publican los días 3 de cada mes (o el día hábil siguiente si el 3 cae en viernes, sábado, domingo o día festivo), a las 12:00 horas del mes siguiente al que se reporta.  La información está disponible en la página de Internet del Indicador IMEF (www.iieem.org.mx), a la cual también se puede tener acceso mediante la página principal del IMEF (www.imef.org.mx) y muy pronto estará disponible en esta página.

Publicado en el Periódico Reforma

 El Presidente Vicente Fox declaró el martes pasado que su política económica es de un “desarrollo estabilizador”, aludiendo a que ha buscado crecer sin inflación.  Sin embargo, esta no es una etiqueta que pueda utilizar libremente, ya que está reservada para describir el modelo de desarrollo de los años sesenta.

De hecho, los derechos de autor corresponden a Antonio Ortiz Mena, quien fue Secretario de Hacienda del primero de diciembre de 1958 al 16 de agosto de 1970.  Ortiz Mena utilizó la frase “desarrollo estabilizador” para describir la política económica que él, junto con Don Rodrigo Gómez (Director General del Banco de México), llevaron a cabo en los sexenios de Adolfo López Mateos y Gustavo Díaz Ordaz.  Esta resultó en un crecimiento económico elevado y sostenido, en un ambiente de estabilidad de precios.

Seguramente, lo que Fox quiso decir es que su política ha impulsado el crecimiento económico sin generar presiones inflacionarias.  Sin embargo, no quiso aludir a que su sexenio sea similar al desarrollo estabilizador de Ortiz Mena.  Lo más probable es que Fox no sepa bien las características de la política económica de aquella época y posiblemente ni siquiera sabe que es una frase reservada para referirse al modelo económico que se utilizó hace ya cuarenta años.

La verdad es que no le conviene la comparación.  De entrada, el crecimiento promedio anual del desarrollo estabilizador fue 6.3 por ciento, mientras que el de los cuatro años que llevamos de la administración actual, es de 1.6 por ciento.  La inflación promedio de esa época fue 2.2 por ciento y la de Fox es de 4.8 por ciento.  Esto significa que Fox ha logrado una cuarta parte del crecimiento económico, en un ambiente de más del doble de inflación.  De entrada, esto parece indicar que Fox no está ni siquiera cerca de obtener los resultados que obtuvo el desarrollo estabilizador de Ortiz Mena.

Pero la comparación es realmente peor de lo que suena, ya que el desarrollo estabilizador se caracterizó por muchos aspectos que Fox ha buscado evitar.  El presidente presume que su política económica ha logrado reducir la pobreza y mejorar la distribución del ingreso.  La crítica más grande del desarrollo estabilizador fue que empeoró la distribución del ingreso y nunca logró que los beneficios de un mayor crecimiento económico llegaran a las clases más necesitadas.  Luis Echeverría, el presidente que terminó con el modelo de Ortiz Mena a partir de 1971, lo reemplazó con el modelo de “desarrollo compartido”, que precisamente buscaba enmendar estos defectos.  Por lo mismo, presumir de un “desarrollo estabilizador” que mejora la distribución del ingreso y reduce la pobreza, es una contradicción total de términos.

El desarrollo estabilizador termina trágicamente con la muerte de Don Rodrigo Gómez el 14 de agosto de 1970 y con la renuncia, dos días después, de Antonio Ortiz Mena como Secretario de Hacienda.  Al poco tiempo, Ortiz Mena es nombrado Presidente del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID) donde realizó una gestión de 17 años.  A pesar de los buenos resultados en materia de crecimiento económico y estabilidad de precios, Ortiz Mena fue severamente criticado por la izquierda mexicana.  Por ejemplo, podemos leer el libro de Carlos Tello, escrito en 1979, “La Política Económica en México 1970-76” (Siglo Veintiuno Editores), en el cual justifica la dirección tomada a partir del sexenio de Echeverría con base en los malos resultados del desarrollo estabilizador de Ortiz Mena.  Tello alega que el crecimiento económico únicamente benefició a la élite empresarial y provocó una distribución del ingreso todavía más inequitativa.

Obviamente, Ortiz Mena siempre defendió su modelo.  Por ejemplo, podemos leer el libro que escribió en 1998, “El Desarrollo Estabilizador: Reflexiones sobre una Época” (Fideicomiso Historia de las Américas, Serie Hacienda, El Colegio de México y Fondo de Cultura Económica).  Ortiz Mena y algunos economistas posteriores (como Leopoldo Solís), tradicionalmente caracterizaron los años entre 1940 y 1970 por dos periodos principales: el de crecimiento sostenido con inflación de 1940 a 1958 y el del desarrollo estabilizador de 1958 a 1970.  Ortiz Mena defendió su época principalmente como una de disciplina fiscal y monetaria, que condujo a la estabilidad aludida y provocó las condiciones propicias para el crecimiento sostenido.

Sin embargo, esta visión tan halagadora del desarrollo estabilizador fue cuestionada por Enrique Cárdenas, posiblemente el historiador económico contemporáneo más influyente de nuestro país.  Cárdenas, quien es de los pocos economistas serios que se dedican de lleno a estudiar la historia económica de México, fue hasta hace algunos años rector de la Universidad de las Américas.  Él prefiere dividir las décadas de los cincuenta y sesenta en dos periodos distintos: el del crecimiento económico sano de 1950 a 1962 (también se refiere a este periodo como de crecimiento sostenido con choques externos) y el de alto crecimiento con debilidad estructural de 1963 a 1971.  Esta diferenciación excluye la inflación como característica endógena de la economía y se concentra más en la capacidad de la economía para mantener un ritmo sostenido de crecimiento económico.

Para Cárdenas, la mayor inflación de los cincuenta se debe a la existencia de choques externos y no a una menor disciplina fiscal y monetaria.  De hecho, él argumenta que hubo mayor disciplina en los cincuenta que en los sesenta.  La ausencia de inflación en los sesenta se debió más bien a la ausencia de choques externos.  Por ejemplo, el déficit fiscal acumulado de la década de los cincuenta apenas alcanzó 0.3 por ciento del PIB, un promedio de 0.03 por ciento.  En cambio, en los años sesenta, la cuenta pública se volvió crónicamente deficitaria y el déficit fiscal fue creciendo ligeramente año con año.  Inclusive, esta década fue criticada por la ausencia de una reforma fiscal.

Pero lo más severo de la década del “desarrollo estabilizador” fue la debilidad estructural que provocó a través del proteccionismo desmedido, los subsidios crecientes y una estructura oligopólica de los mercados.  Las características de la industria eran de ineficiencias escondidas, altas tasas de ganancia y un debilitamiento gradual de las finanzas públicas.  Por lo mismo, hubo la creación de muchas empresas y sectores que subsistían en condiciones antieconómicas y un deterioro de las cuentas externas que condujeron a un endeudamiento externo severo.

¿Esta es la política económica que presume Fox?