How bad is the Argentine crisis? | E-Axes

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How bad is the Argentine crisis?

From Naked Keynesianism by Matias Vernengo:

There is a certain view about current events in Argentina that tends to emphasize the potential effects of the devaluation as the collapse of the economic model, and, and, hence, suggest that the post-default process of economic growth should not be taken as an alternative for other countries in distress, like for example Greece and other Southern European countries. This kind of view, expressed for example by Walter Molano in the Financial Times today (subscription required; minus the strange argument that the Argentine problem is "geographical"), suggests that policies should be aimed at pleasing international financial markets since the goal is to promote "confidence in the country’s economic management," and that devaluation is necessary for solving the "unsustainable economic imbalances."

First, it must be understood that the current devaluation, which was of the order of 20% in nominal terms in the last days of last week, is part of a plan that was most likely in the works, since the change in the economic team at the end of last November, when the current finance minister, Axel Kicillof, became the sole commander of the economy displacing Guillermo Moreno, and to a lesser extent Mercedes Marcó del Pont (full disclosure, I worked in the central bank during her tenure president) in the internal domestic dispute.

In other words, this is not a balance of payments crisis (or a currency one) per se, even though it might become one, since it was actually part of a policy decision, first to accelerate the depreciation of the currency, which started in the last month of 2013 after the new finance minister assumed his position, and that culminated with the renegotiation of the debt with the Paris Club (to regain access to international financial markets), and the gradual liberalization of the exchange market, trying to move the official rate closer to the 'blue,' that is, the black market rate. Note that the current account, as I noted before here, is not in a terrible situation, the Brazilian position has been far worse for a longer period, and the real exchange rate was not more appreciated than in Brazil either.

Before discussing my views of what might happen, it is important to note the New Developmentalist views, which are often associated to Bresser-Pereira and in Argentina to Roberto Frenkel and his co-authors, that the re-alignment of the real exchange rate was inevitable and necessary to promote more competitiveness and growth does not hold water (see my previous critique here, and Fiorito and Amico's here). Bresser has in fact argued that this devaluation is likely to be good for Argentina. In his words (the whole article here):

"the peso retrieved the lost competitive equilibrium; the government declared that the peso had reached the desired level, and, without fearing an increase in the dollar's official price, it suspended several restrictions to the purchase of dollars , in order to draw the parallel down. If this strategy of keeping the exchange rate at the competitive level is successful, profit expectations will rise, business enterprises will invest again, the current account surplus will be restored, and the Argentinian crisis will be over."

Martín Rapetti (a Frenkel co-author) remains more skeptical here (in Spanish), but insists it was inevitable (the exchange rate realignment).

In my view, the devaluation was not inevitable and is not particularly good. First, it will be inflationary, and as I noted a few years back, also might be contractionary, so expect less growth this year. The reduced growth is what will hold the current account in a reasonable situation, by the way. Hence, devaluation will not solve either the inflationary problem, nor the external constraint one. In this sense, the crisis (manufactured as it is) is worse than most people understand, since it won't solve any of the pressing problems in Argentina.


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