The Latin American Debt Crisis in Historical Perspective
The explanation for the worse performance of Latin America in the 1980s vs. the 1930s must be found, not in the magnitude of the trade and capital account shocks, which were in fact worse during the Great Depression, but in the international response to the crisis. During the 1930s, external debt default opened the space for counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies. In contrast, during the 1980s, Latin America faced strong pressures to avoid prolonged defaults and was forced to adopt contractionary macroeconomic policies. Averting default helped the U.S. avoid a banking crisis, but at the cost of a lost decade of development in Latin America. The Brady Plan came very late, but helped create a market for Latin American bonds. Two basic implications are that there is a need to create an international debt workout mechanism and that international financial institutions should never be used to support the interests of creditor countries.
About the Author
José Antonio Ocampo
Professor of International and Public Affairs
School of International and Public Affairs
Jose Antonio Ocampo is Co-President of IPD, Professor of Professional Practice in the School of International and Public Affairs, and Fellow of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. Prior to his appointment at Columbia, Professor Ocampo served as the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and head of UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), as Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and has held a number of high-level posts in the Government of Colombia, including Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Director of the National Planning Department, and Minister of Agriculture . Professor Ocampo is author or editor of over 30 books and has published over 200 scholarly articles on macroeconomic theory and policy, international financial issues, economic development, international trade, and Colombian and Latin American economic history.