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Economic Policy Group Networks for Free Markets Panama-Based Think Tank Puts Open Trade on National Agendas. LATIN AMERICAN ECONOMIES

Article excerpt

BEFORE Carlos Salinas de Gortari became President of Mexico in December 1988, a mere 20 families controlled Mexico's trucking industry through government licensing. The monopoly made these few families wealthy.

After his election, Mr. Salinas - who holds a PhD in economics from Harvard - soon moved to deregulate the trucking industry, pushing the cost of transportation down and helping stimulate freer movement of goods.

The policy steps he followed in doing this were developed in detail ahead of time at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM) in Mexico City, in conjunction with several private Mexican economic institutes.

Policy development was done locally, though the study was funded by the International Center for Economic Growth (ICEG).

Mexico's successful deregulation of the trucking industry illustrates the impact of the quiet work of the ICEG, which has international headquarters in Panama City, administrative offices here in San Francisco, and a field office in Washington, D. C.

Nicolas Ardito Barletta, chairman of ICEG's board of overseers and manager of its international headquarters in Panama, is a former vice president of the World Bank for Latin America and also former president of Panama.

The board of overseers includes Paul Volcker, former chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Board, Raymond Barr, former prime minister of France, Roberto Campos, former minister of planning and finance for Brazil, and Saburo Okita, former Japanese minister of foreign affairs and director of planning.

Through ICEG, Dr. Barletta - who holds a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago - is striving to help build healthy economies in Latin America and other regions. ICEG has direct connections with a network of more than 240 indigenous economic policy institutes in 94 countries.

All are working to bring free-market reforms to their own economies. The network of experts tries to get market-oriented economic and human-development policies clearly stated and implemented.

ICEG's operating concepts are these:

* Facilitate the ability of countries to learn from each other.

* Utilize proven development concepts.

* Focus on practical, reformist policies, not on large grants or loans.

* Stress local ownership and investing in people at all social levels, giving them access to economic opportunity.

* Support policy experts who have done reform studies in ICEG-related institutes and have later been appointed to government jobs.

Such appointments have happened in both Mexico and Argentina, Barletta says.

ICEG's methods often involve a cross-fertilization between private sector planning and government implementation. …