Mon Jan 11th, 2010 at 04:04:15 PM EST
This diary is an attempt to highlight a few important economic indicators of select Latin American countries for 2009. It is based on my translation of sections of the December Report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean [ECLAC] entitled Preliminary Balance of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean for 2009. The countries I have selected are Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Dominican Republic.
As an overview, ECLAC notes that Latin America is confronting a crisis without precedent in the last 70 years; one which begs comparison to the Depression of the 1930's
. However, the crisis also finds Latin America in a much better position to "weather the storm" and does not automatically translate into a financial crisis.
Since 2002, emerging current account surpluses have provided a cushion as have improvements in public finances overall. This has allowed for a reduction in the public debt as well as an accumulation of international reserves. The crisis has nevertheless had a negative impact on the region as a whole, although not as severe as in previous cases. Furthermore, it should be noted that the impact of the crisis has not been uniform, thus affecting some regions (like the Caribbean Basin) more than others.
Beginning with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,
It is estimated that GDP in 2009 will contract 2.3%, due primarily to the drop in the price of oil on the world market. Venezuela continued registering the greatest inflation rate in Latin America within the context of a fiscal deficit and lesser access to foreign exchange at the official rate of exchange.
In 2009 public finances deteriorated significantly with respect to 2008, mainly due to a drop in public sector income. This was the only sector to have an expansionary impact on aggregate demand, although to a lesser degree than in previous years. During the first quarter of the year, the overall deficit of the restricted public sector equaled 0.9% of annual GPD. During this period, restricted public sector income dropped by 3.8 percentage points of GDP in comparison to the first quarter of 2008, while expenditures (including loans granted) were reduced by only 1.6 percentage points of GDP. Judging from the available information, it is estimated that the entire restricted public sector deficit for the year will approach 4% of GDP. For more details, please access the ECLAC supplement on Venezuela.
Faring better was the Plurinational State of Bolivia:
GDP for 2009 will grow by 3.5%, which entails a deceleration of close to 3.2 percentage points with respect to 2008, while the urban unemployment rate will reach 6.8%, which represents an increase of 0.1 percentage points over last year's rate. Inflation hovers around 1%, which implies a reduction of around 11 percentage points with respect to 2008. Similarly, the balance of payments current account as well as the non-financial public sector accounts will both close with surpluses, although they will be less than those registered for 2008, due mainly to the drop in the average prices for hydrocarbons during the year. The political scene for 2009 was dominated by two referendums: one in January which sought approval for and obtained a new constitution for the nation, and presidential and parliamentary elections in the closing month of the same year. Within this context the new congress has to discuss the modifications to a host of laws in order to adapt them to the new constitutional setting. For more details, please access the ECLAC supplement on Bolivia.
Chile showed the benefits of good economic housekeeping:
Owing to capabilities developed in recent years, Chile was able to confront the adverse effects of the international financial crisis by applying appropriate counter cyclical policies. These should bring back growth to the country in 2010.
Due to the economic turbulence that arose in the final quarter of 2008, Chilean exports experienced a strong deterioration, both in terms of volume as well as prices. Consequently, growth expectations diminished along with employment and income, and private expenditure both in investment goods as well as in durable consumer goods dropped significantly. This brought about a significant contraction in the GDP growth rate beginning in the second half of 2008 and leading to a drop in production, a reduction in inventories and an increase in unemployment during 2009.
To this scenario, counter cyclical measures were applied which saw a reduction, from mid-year 2009, in losses and a subsequent recuperation in production levels, exports and employment. In 2009, GDP will drop 1.8% with a recovery expected in 2010 to 4,5%, due to the continued demand for exports and the recuperation of internal demand attributable to an improvement in expectations with respect to Chile and the rest of the world. For more details, please access the ECLAC supplement on Chile.
In other Chilean news, it should be noted that billionaire Sebastián Piñera won December's general elections but must face his rival in a run-off. According to the Guardian:
Preliminary results gave the billionaire Sebastian Pinera 44% of the vote, far ahead of his nearest rival but not enough to clinch a first-round victory. Pinera, who owns stakes in an airline and a media firm, promised to rejuvenate the economy but not radically shift Chile to the right. "Better times are coming to Chile," he said. Piñera will square off on 17 January against Eduardo Frei, a former president who ran on the ticket of the ruling coalition... .
Stop the presses!!! We interrupt this diary to bring you some breaking news!:
Chile will become the first South American country to enter the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), under an agreement signed this morning in Santiago between Finance Minister Andrés Velasco and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Chile is the thirty first country and second Latin American nation (Mexico entered in 1994) to join the group, which includes a membership that represents 70 percent of global wealth.
Next we re-visit Brasil
In 2009, Brasil's economy recuperated from the impact of the international financial crisis. Save for some initial difficulties, Brasil managed to expand credit flows thanks to measures implemented by the Central Bank aimed at maintaining internal liquidity levels, reducing interest rates and stimulating lending from public banks. Expansionary fiscal measures were implemented with reductions in taxes aimed at specific sectors and spending increases, which enlarged the fiscal deficit. Private consumption contributed positively to the economic recovery and, lastly, macroeconomic conditions and economic perspectives for the country remained attractive. This attracted capital investment both in terms of direct foreign investment as well as portfolio investment, thereby contributing to an increase in international reserves. The host of measures implemented allowed for a recuperation of the level of economic activity and it is estimated that for 2009, GDP will grow by 0.3%. Similarly, for 2010 GDP growth rates are expected to reach their former levels of 5.5% prior to the crisis. For more details, please access the ECLAC supplement on Brasil.
... and don't forget the Carnaval in Salvador from 11 - 17 February
. No snow there!!!
Finally, a look at what is perhaps one of only a few bright spots in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic:
Despite the international financial crisis, the Dominican Republic's GDP managed to grow by 2.5% in 2009. While this was significantly below the 8.4% growth rate registered on average between 2004 and 2008, it allowed for a 1.1% increase in the per capita GDP. The yearly inflation rate hovered around 6%, slightly higher than registered for 2008. On the other hand, the déficits of the central government and the current account are estimated to be 3% and 5.2% of GDP, respectively. ECLAC projects the growth rate for 2010 to top 3%. Similarly, the inflation rate and current account deficit will be similar to those observed last year. In contrast, the central government deficit is expected to drop to 2.5%.
Throughout 2009, public policy was dictated by the international financial crisis. The government's plan included, in the fiscal sphere, exemptions for the agricultural sector, incentives aimed at constructing affordable housing, support for small and medium sized firms and a widening of public investment, which had suffered important delays in execution due to serious problems with finance. Expansionary monetary policy was enacted, while in terms of social policies, a series of programs aimed at protecting vulnerable sectors were expanded.