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The anatomy of a multiple crisis : why was Argentina special and what can we learn from it?

  • Perry, Guillermo
  • Serven, Luis

The Argentine crisis has been variously blamed on fiscal imbalances, real overvaluation, and self-fulfilling investor pessimism triggering a capital flow reversal. The authors provide an encompassing assessment of the role of these and other ingredients in the recent macroeconomic collapse. They show that in the final years of convertibility,Argentina was not hit harder than other emerging markets in Latin America and elsewhere by global terms-of-trade and financial disturbances. So the crisis reflects primarily the high vulnerability to disturbances built into Argentina's policy framework. Three key sources of vulnerability are examined: the hard peg adopted against optimal currency area considerations in a context of wage and price inflexibility; the fragile fiscal position resulting from an expansionary stance in the boom; and the pervasive mismatches in the portfolios of banks'borrowers. While there were important vulnerabilities in each of these areas, neither of them was higher than those affecting other countries in the region, and thus there is not one obvious suspect. But the three reinforced each other in such a perverse way that taken jointly they led to a much larger vulnerability to adverse external shocks than in any other country in the region. Underlying these vulnerabilities was a deep structural problem of the Argentine economy that led to harsh policy dilemmas before and after the crisis erupted. On the one hand, the Argentine trade structure made a peg to the dollar highly inconvenient from the point of view of the real economy. On the other hand, the strong preference of Argentinians for the dollar as a store of value-after the hyperinflation and confiscation experiences of the 1980s-had led to a highly dollarized economy in which a hard peg or even full dollarization seemed reasonable alternatives from a financial point of view.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 3081.

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Date of creation: 30 Jun 2003
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3081
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  1. De la Torre, Augusto & Levy Yeyati, Eduardo & Schmukler, Sergio L., 2003. "Living and dying with hard pegs : the rise and fall of Argentina's currency board," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2980, The World Bank.
  2. Athanasios Orphanides & Simon van Norden, 1999. "The reliability of output gap estimates in real time," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-38, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Ilan Goldfajn & Rodrigo O. ValdŽs, 1999. "The Aftermath Of Appreciations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 229-262, February.
  4. Guillermo A. Calvo & Carmen M. Reinhart, 2000. "Fear of Floating," NBER Working Papers 7993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Christian Broda, 2001. "Coping with Terms-of-Trade Shocks: Pegs versus Floats," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 376-380, May.
  6. Ricardo Hausmann & Ugo Panizza & Ernesto H. Stein, 2000. "Why Do Countries Float the Way They Float?," Research Department Publications 4205, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  7. Alejandro Izquierdo & Ernesto Talvi & Guillermo A. Calvo, 2002. "Sudden Stops, the Real Exchange Rate and Fiscal Sustainability: Argentina's Lessons," Research Department Publications 4299, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  8. Schmukler, Sergio L. & Serven, Luis, 2002. "Pricing currency risk under currency boards," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 367-391, December.
  9. Michael Gavin & Roberto Perotti, 1997. "Fiscal Policy in Latin America," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 11-72 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Enrique Alberola & Susana G. Cervero & Humberto Lopez & Angel Ubide, 2000. "Global Equilibrium Exchange Rates: Euro, Dollar, "Ins," "Outs," and Other Major Currencies in a Panel Cointegration Framework," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0051, Econometric Society.
  11. Alberola, Enrique & Lopez, Humberto & Serven, Luis, 2004. "Tango with the Gringo: the hard peg and real misalignment in Argentina," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3322, The World Bank.
  12. Fiess, Norbert, 2003. "Capital flows, country risk, and contagion," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2943, The World Bank.
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