Privatization South American Style

By Luigi Manzetti | Go to book overview
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of unprotected academic advisers; they cannot do so, however, if those academics have become associated with a policy that is highly prized by powerful interests'.

However, coherent, sound policies need to survive their masters to be sustained over time. This requires the creation of institutions capable of assuring the continuation of such policies over time, by sheltering them from pork-barrel politicians who are likely to manipulate them would they be given a chance. Pinochet in Chile, before withdrawing from power, created an independent central bank and engineered an electoral system that could make it impossible for his political enemies, once in power, to reverse his policies. Unfortunately, Chile remains an isolated case in Latin America. Central Banks remain highly dependent upon the executive and the checks and balances of the democratic process are likewise tenuous, particularly in Argentina and Peru. These two countries, and to a lesser extent Brazil, have made great strides to reform their economies, but such reforms have been confined to the economic realm. Unless they are accompanied by political reforms that promote an efficient and independent judiciary, a legislature that is responsive to its citizens rather than specific lobbies, and a more selfrestrained, and transparent executive branch, Vargas Llosa's warning may not sound too unrealistic after all. In the years to come, if market reforms are truly to succeed as economic theory postulates, they should be matched by an equal effort to spread wealth and strengthen the democratic process. There is nothing inherently wrong with free-market policies as some left-wing critics argue. Rather, it is the lack of transparency that demands scrutiny and action. As St Augustine reasoned, 'States without Justice are but bands of thieves enlarged.'

That even the most sophisticated observers of economic trends were still unwilling to concede that their country was slipping into a situation similar to its Argentine and Peruvian neighbors was clear to me during an interview I had with a former chairman of the Brazilian Central Bank in August of 1988. When I raised this possibility, the interviewee disdainfully replied that there was no chance that Brazil would fall into hyperinflation. By the end of 1989, consumer prices had increased by over 1,860 per cent
That the main task of domestic conglomerates in this type of trilateral consortium was to take care of the 'political side' of the negotiations with the government was confirmed to me, quite candidly, by the chief public relation officers of one of Argentina's largest groups in an interview. Buenos Aires, November 1995.
The process started with the Collor Plan I and continued through 1996 when Congress approved a motion allowing foreign companies to control majority shares in the mining sectors.


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Privatization South American Style


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