Structural Reforms in Latin America under Scrutiny
Mar 2002
The future of structural reforms in Latin America is under discussion. The purpose of this document is to synthesize the facts and opinions that underlie this debate. The first section shows that although the reform process has not ground to a halt, it has been incomplete and uneven, both across countries and different areas of reform. The greatest progress has been made in reforming the trade and financial sectors. In terms of tax reform and privatization, the record has been mixed across countries. The most modest progress has been made in the area of labor code reform. The second section analyzes the status of public opinion of the reform process. Disillusionment with the reforms has been growing, particularly among the middle class. This disapproval, rather than reflecting concerns about the state of the economy or the degree of progress of the reforms, stems from the corruption that has tainted the privatization process in some countries. The third section reviews the effects of the reforms. Their impact on growth seems to have been positive, albeit temporary, but the effects on employment and income distribution have varied in different areas of reform and according to the particular context in each country. Specifically, the effectiveness of reforms has depended heavily on the quality of public institutions. The fourth section summarizes the main proposals to expand or reorient the reform agenda in the region. One set of proposals suggests broadening the Washington Consensus with more active policies aimed at addressing the need for greater economic stability, social integration and equitable income distribution. Another set of proposals, guided by a more encompassing view of the goals of development, emphasizes the interaction among civil society, the private sector, and the government. Finally, a more radical vision proposes a new national and international institutional architecture that would limit the role of markets and mitigate the effects of globalization.