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Volume 55 / Social Sciences

ECONOMICS: ARGENTINA


EDUARDO BORENSZTEIN, Chief, Developing Countries Studies Division, Research Department, International Monetary Fund


SINCE THE MID-1980S, research on the Argentine economy has been particularly strong, especially in terms of serious publications. Themes covered in the literature are: inflation, hyperinflation, stabilization plans of all persuasions, the international debt crisis, and, arguably, the deepest structural reforms in Argentine history in areas such as international trade and payments, financial markets, and privatization of State enterprises. Thus, books and articles annotated below have a special significance in that they provide an inside view of developments during this unprecedented stage of Argentine economic history. Among them are several publications that stand out for their originality and/or appeal. Two former finance ministers and the current one (1995) have authored books comprised of a broad collection of lectures, speeches, newspaper articles, and political and economic works of great value for those interested in policy and history: Cavallo (item bi 94000423), Dagnino Pastore (item bi 94000381) and Martínez de Hoz (item bi 94000418). In addition, Vázquez Presedo's tracing of the trajectory of Argentine economic history since 1776 makes fascinating reading (item bi 94000404).

As expected, the inflationary process and stabilization attempts are among leading research subjects. There is no question that a certain degree of consensus has been building to support the need to balance the nation's fiscal accounts as a crucial condition for stabilization. In fact, various authors have attributed the failure of many previous stabilization attempts to fiscal weaknesses; Kiguel (item bi 93006869), Rodríguez (item bi 94000420), and Chisari et al. (item bi 94006430) offer the most comprehensive and persuasive studies in this regard. An aspect which remains largely unexplored is the precise nature of the role played by Argentina's exchange-rate arrangement which was designed to support the "convertibility" plan (the heart of the 1991 price stabilization process). One should also note the pessimism shared by economists in Argentina regarding the possibility of price stabilization, at a time when the most successful stabilization plan was being launched.

Another major factor in Argentina's economic crisis at the time was the international debt problem. This is the subject of a highly recommended book by Dornbusch and De Pablo (item bi 94002372), a work that goes well beyond the debt crisis to serve as a treatise on Argentine macroeconomic issues. While the debt crisis appears to have receded as of 1995, the expected resilience of price stabilizations and balance of payments surpluses is yet to be determined, particularly if the early 1990s' relatively benign international environment worsens.

The effects of inflation and balance of payments adjustments on real wages and income distribution are also the subject of interesting research (items bi 94000113 and bi 93002868). In addition, the literature on labor markets includes studies on the implications of informal markets and population trends (items bi 94000419, bi 93001448, bi 94000119, and bi 93021414). Informal markets and small-scale economic activities are not merely intriguing features of many Latin American economies, but a potential source of great economic dynamism as well.

To conclude, the depth of structural economic reforms is the one element that distinguishes 1990s Argentine economic policy. Although the process is still incomplete, the transformation in areas such as deregulation, privatization, and the international opening of the economy has taken on historical significance. A number of works address the reform process in general, including examinations of the relation between reforms in different areas and their proper sequencing (items bi 94000401, bi 94000410, bi 94001733, and bi 94002016). Other works concentrate on aspects of specific reforms, such as international trade (items bi 94001717 and bi 92015085), fiscal reform (item bi 94000414), and financial markets (item bi 93018466). Privatization was also the subject of much debate; work in this area covers micro- and macroeconomic implications (items bi 94006436 and bi 94000391), political considerations (item bi 94000387), and case studies of different public enterprises (items bi 93016588, bi 93001449, and bi 93003244). In addition, a number of volumes of conference proceedings present good contributions covering diverse topics such as international trade (item bi 94000394), international financial markets (item bi 94000422), and economic reforms (item bi 94000407).


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