Oppenheimer cautious about Latin America

Silvio Canto, Jr.
Latin America is a region of contrasts, as any tourist or frequent traveler will tell you.

The "Cuba-Venezuela" group is a mess.  The economies are not growing and a disregard for "the rule of law" discourages investment.

The Chile-Mexico-Colombia group is doing a lot better, in large part because of their political stability and attractive treatment of investors.  For example, Mexico just passed energy reforms and Chile continues to be the envy of the region. Colombia and the US are trading more than ever, in large part because of the free trade agreement.

Overall, I agree with Andres Oppenheimer that "caution" may be in order:

"According to the IMF's semi-annual report released at its spring meeting in Washington on April 8, Latin America's economy will grow by 2.5 percent this year, and by 3 percent next year.

That's lower than the region's growth rates in the past decade, but suggests that its economies may soon begin to rebound. 

The World Bank, in its “consensus forecast” based on nearly three dozen projections by mostly private sector banks, said that Latin America's economy will grow by 2.3 percent this year, and by 3 percent in 2015.

In January, the World Bank had forecast an “upbeat” future for the region, forecasting a 3.7 percent growth rate in 2016.  

Among the region's largest economies, the best-performing one will be Mexico, which is scheduled to grow by 3 percent this year, and by 3.5 percent next year, the IMF said.

“Mexico’s ongoing economic reforms, especially in the energy and telecommunications sectors, herald higher potential growth for the medium term,” the IMF said in its report. 

Other countries that will show healthy growth rates will be Peru, (projected to grow by 5.5 percent this year and 5.8 percent next year,) Bolivia (5.1 percent this year and 5 percent next year,) Paraguay (4.8 percent this year and 4.5 percent next year), Colombia (4.5 percent both years) and Chile (3.6 percent this year and 4.1 percent next year,) the IMF said. 

Among the countries that will show meager growth are Brazil, the region's largest country, which is projected to grow by 1.8 percent this year and 2.7 percent next year, according to the IMF.

Brazil's economy will continue to suffer from a “loss of competitiveness and low business confidence,” the IMF said. 

Finally, Latin America's worst performing economies will be Venezuela and Argentina, the IMF says.

Venezuela's economy will shrink by 0.5 percent this year, and will drop by another 1 percent next year.  

In an interview, IMF Western Hemisphere director Alejandro Werner told me that he projects Venezuela's inflation rate, which reached a world record of 56 percent last year, to rise to 75 percent in 2014.

Werner said that unless Venezuela adopts an economic adjustment program, inflation may turn into hyper-inflation in coming years.

“Typically, when countries reach inflation rates of 50 or 55 percent, they either adopt adjustment programs to put a break on it, or inflation keeps growing progressively,” he said. 

Argentina's economy is projected to remain virtually flat, with a 0.5 percent growth this year, and will probably grow by 1 percent next year."

Again, Latin America is showing the world that "free markets and the rule of law" works.  At the same time, the economies that lack freedom (like Cuba or Venezuela) or have a huge tax burden or big government (like Brazil) do not grow.

P. S. You can hear our US-Latin America show of the week with Fausta Wertz and Cecilia Torres here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.

Latin America is a region of contrasts, as any tourist or frequent traveler will tell you.

The "Cuba-Venezuela" group is a mess.  The economies are not growing and a disregard for "the rule of law" discourages investment.

The Chile-Mexico-Colombia group is doing a lot better, in large part because of their political stability and attractive treatment of investors.  For example, Mexico just passed energy reforms and Chile continues to be the envy of the region. Colombia and the US are trading more than ever, in large part because of the free trade agreement.

Overall, I agree with Andres Oppenheimer that "caution" may be in order:

"According to the IMF's semi-annual report released at its spring meeting in Washington on April 8, Latin America's economy will grow by 2.5 percent this year, and by 3 percent next year.

That's lower than the region's growth rates in the past decade, but suggests that its economies may soon begin to rebound. 

The World Bank, in its “consensus forecast” based on nearly three dozen projections by mostly private sector banks, said that Latin America's economy will grow by 2.3 percent this year, and by 3 percent in 2015.

In January, the World Bank had forecast an “upbeat” future for the region, forecasting a 3.7 percent growth rate in 2016.  

Among the region's largest economies, the best-performing one will be Mexico, which is scheduled to grow by 3 percent this year, and by 3.5 percent next year, the IMF said.

“Mexico’s ongoing economic reforms, especially in the energy and telecommunications sectors, herald higher potential growth for the medium term,” the IMF said in its report. 

Other countries that will show healthy growth rates will be Peru, (projected to grow by 5.5 percent this year and 5.8 percent next year,) Bolivia (5.1 percent this year and 5 percent next year,) Paraguay (4.8 percent this year and 4.5 percent next year), Colombia (4.5 percent both years) and Chile (3.6 percent this year and 4.1 percent next year,) the IMF said. 

Among the countries that will show meager growth are Brazil, the region's largest country, which is projected to grow by 1.8 percent this year and 2.7 percent next year, according to the IMF.

Brazil's economy will continue to suffer from a “loss of competitiveness and low business confidence,” the IMF said. 

Finally, Latin America's worst performing economies will be Venezuela and Argentina, the IMF says.

Venezuela's economy will shrink by 0.5 percent this year, and will drop by another 1 percent next year.  

In an interview, IMF Western Hemisphere director Alejandro Werner told me that he projects Venezuela's inflation rate, which reached a world record of 56 percent last year, to rise to 75 percent in 2014.

Werner said that unless Venezuela adopts an economic adjustment program, inflation may turn into hyper-inflation in coming years.

“Typically, when countries reach inflation rates of 50 or 55 percent, they either adopt adjustment programs to put a break on it, or inflation keeps growing progressively,” he said. 

Argentina's economy is projected to remain virtually flat, with a 0.5 percent growth this year, and will probably grow by 1 percent next year."

Again, Latin America is showing the world that "free markets and the rule of law" works.  At the same time, the economies that lack freedom (like Cuba or Venezuela) or have a huge tax burden or big government (like Brazil) do not grow.

P. S. You can hear our US-Latin America show of the week with Fausta Wertz and Cecilia Torres here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.