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Questo articolo č stato pubblicato il 18 novembre 2014 alle ore 20:48.


But excitement about Mexico's prospects is on the rise. President Enrique Peņa Nieto has launched a new wave of reforms, spearheaded by liberalization of the energy sector, which will allow foreign investment in oil exploration and production. The state-owned oil company Pemex, a monopoly for three-quarters of a century, will finally face domestic competition. Even an observer as sober as Harvard University's Martin Feldstein gushes about Mexico, declaring that Peņa's reforms position the country to become “Latin America's economic star in the coming decade.”

Yet Mexico's NAFTA experience should make us extremely cautious about such prognostications. We have seen even more comprehensive reforms falter. Will the energy reforms produce another false dawn?

Policymakers need to bear in mind two lessons from Mexico's frustrating encounter with globalization to date. First, external trade and foreign investment on their own cannot lift an economy in the absence of the simultaneous development of productive capabilities at home.

The reason that East Asia's export superpowers – Japan, South Korea, and China – experienced growth miracles was that their governments worked on both fronts at once. Yes, they pushed their firms toward global markets. But they also engaged in a broad range of industrial policies to ensure that these firms were growing and diversifying into new product lines.

In fact, domestic producers were often protected from foreign competition at home to ensure that they remained profitable enough to undertake the requisite investments. Countries like Mexico can no longer revert to import protection. So they will have to experiment with alternative strategies of support for domestic enterprises.
The second lesson is the need for pragmatism in policy design. For too long, Mexico's economic policies have reflected the view that the real economy will take care of itself once the “fundamentals” (macroeconomic stability, openness, and basic regulations) are in place. In the words of the Mexican economist Enrique Dussel Peters, this is the “macroeconomist” mindset , which is very different from the problem-solving “engineer” mindset that has traditionally characterized Asian policymaking.

Mexican officials will need to develop a broader dialogue and partnership with the private sector in order to diagnose and remove the sector-specific obstacles faced by domestic firms. Such collaboration is especially important for the medium-size firms at the cusp of breaking into the big leagues. They will need to act less like “macroeconomists” and more like “engineers.”

Mexico's failure to grow remains a puzzle, for which there is no simple explanation. It is unlikely that a single grand strategy – whether it is opening up the oil sector, improving access to finance, fighting informality, or, for that matter, altering industrial policy – can unlock the gates to rapid, broad-based growth. This uncertainty underscores the need for an agile, responsive government that can move on diverse fronts simultaneously, learn about the problems confronting the real economy, and respond pragmatically.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2014.


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