Privatization South American Style

By Luigi Manzetti | Go to book overview

a much more modern and self-confident country. If one looks back at Argentina's conditions in 1989, these are achievements that only fall short of a miracle. On some dimensions, the Argentine experience became a textbook case on how to build a pro-reform political coalition and technically manage a complex divestiture program, as in the case of electricity. However, in terms of transparency and regulatory policy Argentina was equally an illustrative case on how things should not be done.

In fact, the dark side of Menem's success was not so much its high social cost, as unemployment and poverty almost tripled. That was expected. Rather what was troublesome was Menem's arbitrary style and disregard for the rule of law that did nothing to improve the country's institutions in terms of legitimacy and efficiency. Indeed, throughout his tenure Menem ruled under the state of emergency legal clauses, which allowed him much discretion. His quick and dirty approach, and the alleged cases of corruption ascribed to his administration, surely tarnished the image of his policies, including privatization. In the beginning people thought that this was a necessary evil to be tolerated for a greater good, but still in 1998, Menem was trying to push major legislation through decrees, pointing out the fact that he had not changed his attitude. However, while he showed no intention to change his ways many Argentines in the meantime did. In November 1997, capitalizing on issues like corruption, unemployment, poverty, and lack of government transparency the Radicals and the left-wing FREPASO movement (Frente Pais Solidario) joined forces and scored a stunning victory in mid-term congressional elections depriving Menem of a congressional majority for the first time since 1991. As the country moved from a situation of economic bankruptcy to one of political and economic stability, people progressively began to expect more from their politicians in terms of accountability and performance on issues other than inflation. The old slogan 'follow me, I am not going to betray you', that served Menem so well in 1989, did not seem to do the trick anymore, particularly among middle and upper-middle-class voters. 109 While Menem had well understood his country's mood in 1989, by 1997 he failed to realize that the stakes of the game had changed and demanded more honest and efficient government performance. Coincidentally, after the electoral debacle, opposition to the government's remaining privatizations in banking and power plants, both in and out of Congress, and within his own party, mounted to an unprecedented level and brought the process to a virtual standstill.


Endnotes
1.
La Nación, 11 February 1992, p. 13.
2.
The law also allowed the executive to change the internal organization of PEs, break them apart, merge them, or dissolve them at will. It gave great discretional

-141-

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Privatization South American Style
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Figures viii
  • List of Tables ix
  • List of Abbreviations xi
  • 1 - The Political Economy of Privatization 1
  • Endnotes 30
  • 2 - Privatization in the 1980s: Politics as Usual 32
  • Endnotes 68
  • 3 - Argentina 71
  • Endnotes 141
  • 4 - Brazil 150
  • Endontes 226
  • 5 - Peru 232
  • Endnotes 288
  • 6 - The Theory and Practice of State Divestiture 294
  • Endnotes 331
  • References 333
  • Index 349
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