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Peru Table of Contents


Macroeconomic Imbalance: Domestic and External

Whatever the promises and the costs of the many kinds of reform attempted by the Velasco government, the ship sank because of inadequate attention to balances between spending and productive capacity, and between export incentives and import demand. The Velasco government inherited recessionary conditions in 1968, with a positive external balance and productive capacity readily available for expansion. It maintained effective restraint on spending and deficits for several years but then let things get out of control. The central government's deficit was no more than 1 percent of gross national product (GNP--see Glossary) in 1970, but its own deficit plus that of the greatly expanded group of state firms reached 10 percent of GNP by 1975. Correspondingly, the external current-account balance was positive in the period 1968-70 but showed a deficit equal to 10 percent of GNP by 1975.

The external deficit was driven up primarily by high rates of growth of domestic demand and production through 1974. But in addition, the government's policy of holding to a fixed nominal exchange rate, in an increasingly inflationary context, allowed the real exchange rate to fall steadily from 1969 to 1975. The government refused to consider devaluation for fear it would worsen inflation and managed to avoid it by borrowing abroad to finance the continuing deficit. By 1975 external creditors had lost confidence in Peru's ability to repay its debts and began to put on the brakes. Whether because of such external pressure or because of growing internal opposition to the increasingly arbitrary decisions of the government, the Peruvian military decided to replace Velasco in 1975. The experiment ended on a note of defeat, not so much of its objectives as of its methods.

Data as of September 1992