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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Chile, Argentina and the Demographic Dividend

I have already put up a short post on Chile and the demographic dividend earlier this year. Perhaps now is a good moment to take another look at this argument in the Latin American context. (A reasonable explanation about what the demographic dividend involves can be found here).

Basically from my median ages chart (a short introduction to why median ages are important can be found here) I have identified three countries in Latin America who should experience some kind of DD process in the years ahead: Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Looking at today's news Chile still seems to be continuing nicely on course, as anticipated by the theory:

Chilean industrial production expanded at its fastest pace in five months in October, which may discourage the central bank from cutting lending rates as the economy emerges from a slowdown.

Manufacturing expanded 4.7 percent in October after contracting 2.6 percent the previous month, the government-run National Statistics Institute reported today in Santiago. Joblessness fell to 7.4 percent in October, its lowest level in eight months.

``This reduces the probability we're going to have a decline in interest rates,'' said Raimundo Valdes, an analyst at Santander Investment Inc. in Santiago. ``Private consumption and internal demand are going to be the drivers behind growth next year.''

The rebound in industrial production and an increase in spending on capital goods are signs investment is growing, which may help pull the country out of its worst slowdown since 2003, Valdes said. The economy will probably grow 5.7 percent next year after expanding just 4.4 percent this year, he said.

Now obviously we are yet to see Asian-style growth rates in Latin America, but still this sustained period of comparatively high growth is encouraging. If we turn to Argentina, we find that the situation is not that different:

Breaking the Boom and Bust Cycle?

The fastest-growing economy in Latin America is likely to do it again in 2007, but can this growth last? Argentina has been growing at nearly 9% for four years and we expect a similar, albeit more subdued, performance next year at 7%. However, sustainable growth has proven elusive for Argentina over the past half-century as the economy went through severe boom and bust cycles. While economic growth keeps roaring ahead, it is important to ask whether Argentina has graduated from its history of spectacular boom and bust cycles.

The Argentine economy has sustained four years of growth near 9%, and we see no crash in 2007. However, we see significant vulnerabilities on the growth front, given that much of it hinges on continued consumer confidence, subsidized by the negative real interest rates. As the government fights self-induced inflation and as questions abound regarding the ability of the energy complex to meet demand next year, it is easy to be pessimistic. Yet, we feel that in the near term, the broad macro backdrop is less vulnerable this time around than it has been for nearly a decade — investment has rebounded, as has the capital stock, after having been stagnant during the five years through 2004. Combined with a supportive global backdrop and absent a surprise on the energy front, the Argentine growth machine should be able to continue firing on most, if not all cylinders into 2007.

(Daniel Volberg Morgan Stanley GEF).

So Argentina may well be at last breaking out of the boom-bust cycle, the interesting question would be why? Clearly the political picture is not greatly improved:

Casi la mitad de los países del mundo tienen gobiernos que pueden calificarse de democráticos, pero las "democracias plenas" son sólo 28, según "El Mundo en 2007", un informe especial de la revista inglesa The Economist .

Casi el doble de esa cifra, 54 países en total, constituyen a partir del puesto 29 las "democracias imperfectas", por falta de participación ciudadana y cultura política. Entre ellas figura la Argentina, ubicada en el puesto 54 del ranking.
(My thanks to my Argentinian friend Fran for this link, you can find the latest edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index here.

The dark cloud on the Argentina horizon which many point to would seem to be energy infrastructure. On this topic
Luis Arcentales and Daniel Volberg recently conducted an analysis of the energy sector in Argentina with the following outcome

Energy tipping point?

Argentina’s handling of the energy situation has also come under heavy criticism. Oil, natural gas and electricity — the three main components in the energy sector — all have significant problems in Argentina. With the dearth of private investment in the sector due to price freezes instituted at the time of crisis in 2002, Argentina’s energy sector would appear to be the country’s Achilles’ heel. While our focus is on the macro, we thought it would be worthwhile to provide our initial thoughts on the energy risks and challenges for Argentina in 2007. After all, the single greatest challenge we suspect to our call for another year of strong growth in Argentina is a mishap on the energy front.

We doubt that the oil sector is likely to be a major problem in the coming year.

Argentina is an oil exporter, and while the government taxes crude oil exports heavily at 45% in order to maintain low domestic prices, we do not see any major cataclysms in 2007. In fact, we project that if production and consumption grow at the 2004-05 average levels, Argentina will remain an oil exporter until 2010. That said, there is a need for investment in exploration if Argentina is to keep a viable energy export sector.

Natural gas is another area that we doubt is likely to be a major problem in 2007, despite the fact that domestic prices are frozen at roughly one-fifth of current world market levels. Argentina imports a portion of its gas needs from Bolivia at market prices, and so the price freeze amounts to a hefty subsidy on the part of the government.

Another complicating factor in analyzing the gas sector is that gas in Argentina must be transported via pipelines, and thus supply is not very flexible. Thus, Argentina is a net exporter of gas at the same time that the Buenos Aires region is heavily dependent on the Bolivian supply. We project that at 2005 growth levels in production and consumption, Argentina will become a gas importer in 2008. The gas sector experienced problems in 2004 when Argentina had to redirect gas exports destined for Chile to satisfy growing domestic demand. However, investment since then has increased capacity, and a major gas pipeline system, the Gasoducto del Nordeste (GNA), is under construction and scheduled to come online in 2009 or 2010.

The sector we believe Argentina watchers should monitor the closest is electricity generation, but once again our preliminary results indicate that 2007 should not be a crisis year. Argentina has nuclear, hydro-electric and thermal (oil, gas and coal) electricity generation capacity, with thermal generation capacity accounting for roughly half of the total. The complicating factor when it comes to analyzing electricity generation is the volatile nature of demand and the limited publicly available data on actual fluctuations. Since the system is vulnerable during peak demand, we build several scenarios by assuming different proportions of peak strength relative to annual demand. We base our estimates on informal consultations given by our energy analysts, Subhojit Daripa and Rudy Tolentino.

We find that there is a possibility for problems during the course of 2007, suggesting that they might come during the winter (July or August), but this depends on the current public investment in generation capacity, the revival of the Yacyretá project experiencing delays, as well as the pace of demand growth. In fact, there are public and private investment projects scheduled to come on-stream during 2007, 2008 and 2010 that should expand generation capacity by 15% in 2010 and by nearly 20% in 2011. Thus, if there are no major delays, Argentina should be able to avoid blackouts, even if by a rather small margin.

So at the end of the day Argentina may continue to walk forward on both legs. Brazil is the third country on my list, and as I was arguing earlier in the week, also seems to fit the general pattern (you can find more systematic posting on Brazil over at my new Brazil Economy Watch).

What we would seem to have here is a relatively interesting coincidence between theory (the demographic dividend idea) and empirical data, which would rather tend to confirm the theory. Note that I am not arguing that the demographic situation provides a complete picture, but simply that it is one component in economic growth and development (as should be expected from Solow-type growth theory), and indeed that this component should have a rather heavier weighting than most are inclined to assign it (as should its converse, the Demographic Penalty, which we can of course see at work in Japan, Germany, Italy etc as Claus Vistesen rams home yet one more time today).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What's Funny About Consumption in Japan?

This question was being asked yesterday by Morgan Stanley GEF analyst Robert Alan Feldman (the post can be found towards the bottom of the page).

Now as Claus Vistesen will undoubtedly hammer home at some stage Feldman does get some important parts of the picture which I have referred to in my last posts (and here):

The data on consumption have certainly been a disappointment this year. Although the nearly 4%Y/Y rate reached at the end of 2005 was clearly not sustainable, the sharpness of the slowdown this year has been a surprise. In addition, the deceleration in compensation (whether measured by compensation per worker from the national accounts or by hourly earnings from labor data) has also been a surprise ? especially with record-high corporate profits. The weak growth of wages is all the more puzzling in light of tightening of labor markets shown by a number of indicators. Yes, the weather has been weird this year, but that cannot be the whole story. What is going on?

So far, the number of people saying "That's funny" is small. However, the longer the anomaly of strong capex and weak consumption continues, the more likely will emerge others (like myself) who will claim that high capex and low consumption is the correct structure for the economy.

Why? The idea is simple: As Japan ages, there will be a much faster shrinkage of the labor force than of the population. Hence, each remaining worker will need a lot more capital in order to keep productivity growth fast enough to maintain living standards. Economic growth theory ? in contrast to standard macroeconomic theory ? tells us that high capex and low consumption is just what an economy needs when aging. The implication for investors is equally simple: Stop worrying and love the high-capex economy.

Well really he is getting very near. But then note this:

"As a practical matter, however, consumers and investors will need more time before they accept that consumption need not become the engine of growth."

Well I would put a lot more names on this list other than consumers and investors, people like Brad Setser, Nouriel Roubini, the IMF, the BIS, US Treasury Secretary Paulson, Trichet and the gang at the ECB etc etc. In other words Feldman has, inadvertently walked right into the current global imbalances minefield by suggesting that Japan, as an aged economy (and the first of many more to come) will have to be high capex, low consumption, and logically, to sell the product, dependent on exports. What happens if this ever sinks in somewhere?

Basically he is not quite right about the contrast between macro theory and growth theory, since even though the Solow model is supply side oriented, it is normally situated in a general equilibrium model which includes demand side components and hence generates relative prices.

So you really do need a general equilibrium model running in your head somewhere to get to grips with the implications of what he is arguing. One of the factors he doesn't seem to think about - and why should he, he isn't a theoretical macroeconomist - is how the changed relative balance of consumption and saving affects interest rates, and thus the cost of all that capex, which with low interest rates is much less, and then of course you need to get onto relative prices, and especially if deflation persists.

Curiously he mentions Asimov, and Asimov was interested in robots (he could also have mentioned Zamyatin who wrote a novel called "I Robot"). Now the interesting thing is to think about VERY HIGH capex, at the levels we might see when robots get to build the machines, and then start thinking about whether this would be expensive (which is the story Feldman is trying to sell the investors, hence the possibility of good returns) or whether this would in fact be very cheap, being funded by virtually give-away money with very little of the really scarce and relatively expensive input (labour) being required and with the other constraint being the cost of the raw materials and power that the robots need in order to go to work. Of course, whoever develops the robots can make an initial short term 'rent' ( a la Schumpeter) while they still have a monopoly on the technology, but again there are winners and losers, since some will try and build the technology and fail.

Anyway, this point aside, Feldman is clearly in the right ballpark, and all people now need to do is take the relatively simple step (a small one for them, but a giant one for humanity, perhaps) of thinking this through to a much more general level, and contextualizing all this in what has come to be known as the demographic transition. Now just who the hell was that who ever said that demography isn't important to economists?

Consumption Decline in Japan

My friend Eddie Lee mailed me this morning about this news:

Japan's retail sales unexpectedly fell for a second month, reducing the likelihood that consumer spending will accelerate and lead to an increase in the lowest interest rates among the world's seven biggest economies.

Receipts at retailers fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in October from a month earlier amid warmer-than-usual weather, the trade ministry said today. Sales of winter clothes and electronics led the decline.

The retail ``report does make it somewhat more difficult for the bank to move because things aren't exactly adding up,'' said Jan Lambregts, head of Asian research at Rabobank International in Hong Kong. ``The Bank of Japan is taking an optimistic view on the economy.''

Now as Eddie says "i just found it a little amusing ..."

".. Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui ``doesn't have the ammunition to back up'' a December interest-rate increase, said Kirby Daley, a currency strategist at Societe Generale Group's Fimat unit in Hong Kong. ``We are continuing to make excuse after excuse after excuse for why the consumer isn't coming to the table and it constantly is the weather in Japan.''

... ``The newspapers are saying that the economy is recovering, but that hasn't filtered down to households yet,'' said chain store association spokesman Masahiro Watanabe. Declining receipts at the nation's supermarkets are due more to restraint on the part of consumers than price competition, he said."

Exactly, something other than the weather is at work here, and the Japanese Stock Market seems to sense this:

Asian stocks fell, led by Honda Motor Co., on concern sales are slowing in the U.S and Japan. Li & Fung Ltd., a clothing supplier to American retailers, contributed to the Hang Seng Index's biggest points decline since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

And following the line of thought expressed in Eddie's sense of humour, I couldn't help chuckling to myself at this point:

"``It's unavoidable to adjust interest rates in order to sustain economic growth for a long time,'' the BOJ's Fukui said today at a meeting of business executives in Nagoya, central Japan."

I was chuckling since what he was presumably trying to tell the poor guys who had assembled to listen to him was that afahic it is unavoidable to *raise* rates, whilst what they may well have been wanting to hear is that given weak consumption it is, in their view, unavoidable to go back to ZIRP.

Really Japan is becoming the big test for all the various imbalance theories. Once people finally accept what is actually happening in Japan vis-a-vis rising median age and consumption then the whole global picture will have to adjust, since these ages are set to go up even further and don't look set to come down again anytime this side of 2050, if ever. Meantime you can almost hear the pain as the neurones grind away while people try to figure this amazingly simple detail out.

The Fiscal Position In Japan

Glancing through the OECD Japan Economic Survey 2006 section on the Japan's current fiscal position, I couldn't help having some inconvenient thoughts.

Now as explained here, societies with high median ages and large fiscal deficits (like Japan, Germany and Italy) really face a very special problem: they need to generate sufficient economic growth on a sustainable basis (and since with high median ages they have comparatively low propensity to consume from additional income, and a comparatively high propensity to save, this means export-driven growth) to create sufficient revenue for the exchequer to be able to balance income and expenses. None of the three usual suspects have been able to achieve this balance in recent years - and they have therefore seen their net financial position deteriorating - so it is clear that if they are going to be able to convince the financial markets that long term their position is sustainable, then they need to be able to change course, and demonstrate an ability to maintain the change. This, I take it, is what all the fuss about the 'sustainable recovery' is all about.

The curious thing is that despite all the fuss about the fact that this has been the longest boom since the Izanagi cycle of the late 1960s you tend to read comparatively little about this problem, or about the macro implications of addressing it.

The OECD estimate the current level of the debt/GDP ratio at around 170% of GDP. Now this number is highly contested, since they do have assets in a social security fund, but, otoh, if you count these, so the argument runs, then you also need to take into account implied liabilities, and from here on in there is a large accounting and political wrangle.

I am inclined to take the same view as the Standard and Poor's guy who was very un-impressed by recent attempts by the Greek and Italian governments to reclassify upwards their GDP values by incorporating estimates for the informal economy (an attempt we should note which did to some extent cut ice with Almunia at the EU Commission, I guess those who inherently want to be convinced are grateful to anyone who can offer them a reason why they should be). Basically the S&P's guy said that all this makes little difference since what matters with sustainability is revenue and expenditure, and how they balance. This is what determines the dynamic of the debt, and informal activity by definition doesn't pay tax.

So the same goes for Japan. What matters isn't really the exact number to be attached to the debt/GDP ratio (which in any event is large) but whether the relation of expenditure to revenue is moving towards a balanced path or whether they are spiraling out of control. In the context of population ageing this issue is huge, since obviously stagnant GDP opens the possibility that such debts may NEVER be payable, something which no-one yet seems to want to contemplate, but this doesn't mean that at some point or another markets won't wake up, and maybe with a jolt.

(Incidentally, just a little side dish at this point. We have had a series of red-herrings in the great ageing debate, and one of these is the issue of stock market meltdown. In fact this confusion comes from applying a time horizon which is far too long - so many studies focus mechanically on the 'magic number' of 2050 - and a rigid idea of the life cycle theory, whereby people dis-save as they get to the oldest-old ages. What we can see is that you need to look at a much shorter time horizon - I would say 2010 to 2020, wasn't Keynes's big 'discovery' the ability to distinguish between short, medium and long terms, something which despite the frequent use of the 'in the long run we are all dead' quip, few seem to think about. Sometimes I think that, in economic terms, we live in something of a fools age. The other point would be that before we reach the dis-saving age - if we ever reach it, in fact the oldest old seem to be very spendthrift, so somehow I have my doubts here - we go to an age of increased saving, this is what we are seeing in the older countries across the globe. People are being very mislead here by the savings decline in the US. So I think that rather than stock market melt down what we may see is a very low rate of return environment - remember I am talking 2010-2020 - and the real issue is about what the pension funds can realistically offer their clients if this environment holds).

So I think that at some point the markets will wake up, and this is one of the reasons that I have become so interested in Hungary, since this may well become the first case in history of a country which finds itself stuck on just such an unsustainable (or rather self-evidently unsustainable, since Japan and Italy, IMHO, are already on unsustainable courses, but no-one wants to recognize this) path. Hungary may become the case where this conclusion becomes hard to avoid. I say may, and I mean may, but since the *possibility* exists this certainly makes it worth following for this reason alone, apart from everything else that can be learnt there, and the pure technical fascination of the situation for anyone interested in macroeconomics, it is just such a classic case in some senses, but a classic case with a new, and potentially deadly, ageing twist.

The thing is that if people do start to wake up over Hungary, then eyes will turn to Italy, and if there is a crisis in Italy, then this will obviously lead to a reconsideration of what exactly is going on in Japan. I think I am tentatively outlining a scenario (or possible scenario) here.

So to close, just one or two details on Japan:

Limiting the growth of government spending is the priority in addressing the serious fiscal problem. The FY 2001 Structural Reform and Medium-Term Economic and Fiscal Perspectives set an objective of freezing public expenditure at 38% of GDP through FY 2006, and this target is likely to be achieved. Such spending restraint, which was achieved in part through cuts in public investment, aimed at the goal of a primary budget surplus for the combined central and local governments in the early 2010s. On a general government basis, the primary budget deficit has fallen from 6.7% of GDP in 2002 to an estimated 4% in 2006, with about half of the decline due to structural factors, and the rest accounted for by the economic expansion.

What we should note here are really two things. Firstly that despite everything Japan is still running a substantial fiscal deficit, and that really this deficit hasn't reduced hardly at all if you take into account the fact that half of the saving has come from increased revenue during the boom, and that the other half, which has been a real reduction, may well reverse if 'automatic stabilizers' are applied during the downturn.

Then there is this:

The Reference Projection for the FY 2005 Reform and Perspectives shows a primary budget balance for the combined central and local governments in 2011. However, a balance would not be adequate to stabilise the level of public debt relative to GDP in the long run if the nominal interest rate on government debt exceeds the growth rate of nominal output. While the economic expansion and an end to deflation may push the nominal growth rate above the interest rate in 2006, assuming that growth remains higher would not be prudent for setting a medium-term fiscal objective. Indeed, population ageing will tend to slow output growth while possibly increasing the interest rate. In sum, stabilising the public debt to GDP ratio is likely to require a primary budget surplus for the general government of between ½ and 1½ per cent of GDP.

The point about interest payments is important since of course if rates were to rise in Japan this would put even more pressure on the budget deficit, since the costs of the debt would rise for the Japanese government, which is another reason why some at the finance ministry may be urging the BoJ to exercise caution in raising rates. Indeed Japan may already be in some kind of trap here, given the continuing weakness of domestic consumption. Fortunately (from this point of view) rates are not likely to rise (IMHO) and I fully expect Japan to be back in Zirp either sometime in 2007 or in early 2008.

Finally, I would draw your attention to the fact that Claus Vistesen and I are cross-posting to my old Japan blog, which may indeed attract a few more readers as we move into 2007.

Monday, November 27, 2006

OECD Brazil Survey

The OECD has a new survey out on Brazil. Bloomberg have a rough summary here:

"Brazil's economy will slide further behind its peers unless the government limits spending, especially on pensions, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said today in a report."

Of course the interesting question that this raises is who exactly Brazil's peers are?

If we look at the key demographic indicators the counry which most resembles Brazil in its present profile is Turkey. Both have fertility levels which are rapidly approaching replacement level - and of course may well soon follow the global pattern of below replacement fertility - since both currently have a 2.4 TFR (and dropping fast). In terms of life expectancy Brazil is around 71 and Turkey 72, and of course these ages are rising comparatively rapidly as economic conditions improve. As far as median age goes both countries are now entering the age range during which the phenomenon known as the 'demographic dividend' can be expected to operate (Brazil 27.81, Turkey 27.7, for the importance of median ages in macroeconomic analysis see this post here). So the similarity at this level between these two countries is in fact striking and remarkable. Turkey in recent years has enjoyed far stronger rates of economic growth when compared to Brazil, but it is not clear to what extent the 'anchor' of the EU accession process (and the consequent surge in domestic investment) has been responsible for this, and equally how this process might be affected by any distancing between Turkey and the EU which could result from 'enlargement fatigue' or a worst case scenario in Iraq might impact on this.

In cultural terms the countries which most resemble Brazil would of course be the other two Latin American 'tigers' Chile and Argentina. And again, these countries, possibly for different reasons, have enjoyed rather higher growth rates than Brazil. So in this sense the OECD may well be right to describe Brazil as something of a laggard. The key question is just how long this position will continue.

In these terms the OECD report is revealing. At a superficial level the OECDs key point would seem sound enough:

``Brazil's growth performance needs to improve to close a widening income gap relative'' to other countries in the group, the OECD said in the report. ``Despite reforms implemented since 1998, the deficit of the social-security regime for private- sector workers continues to rise.''

Clearly this is the case, though I doubt the validity of making a direct comparison with the OECD 30 at this point. Brazil is a relatively poor developing country, it is starting on the round to becoming a developed economy, but this road is likely to be a long and hard one. As has already been noted the population is still comparatively young - Brazil is just entering the demographic dividend range - and the still fairly large young cohorts undoubtedly place special pressures on the labour market, and exert a somewhat negative influence on employment rates and income growth. This position will to some extent correct itself automatically as the shape of the pyramid changes, however the OECD is undoubtedly right in stressing the need for a balanced policy environment so as to leverage this process to the maximum.

Brazil is the biggest debtor among emerging market nations with about 1.06 trillion reais ($494.2 billion) in public federal debt in October. The country's 2.5 percent annual growth rate since 1995 lags the global average by more than a third.

Obviously it is clear that Brazil needs to get a better hold on its public finances and that increased taxes are not the best solution, but I do feel that both the above statistics are a little misleading since in the first place Barzil is a large country and hence proportionally the debt is not as big as this makes it seem, and secondly Brazil has only really started to take off in the last couple of years, so the average growth rate since 1995 is not a particularly informative number.

In fact the OECD says the following:

Fiscal performance remains strong. The consolidated primary budget surplus target – which has been raised repeatedly since 1999 to ensure the sustainability of the public debt dynamics – continues to be met and sometimes exceeded by wide margins. The net public debt has fallen in relation to GDP since the 2003 peak and has now stabilised, albeit at the comparatively high level of around 50% of GDP by emerging market standards. The government has been able to sustain fiscal adjustment, despite the limited room for manoeuvre caused by a ratcheting up of current spending over the years and Brazil’s notorious budget rigidities. Nevertheless, fiscal adjustment has been achieved at the expense of cutting back on public investment and by increasing the tax burden. The revenue-to-GDP ratio rose by about 5 percentage points during 2000-05 to nearly 37.5% in 2005 – a level that is one of the highest among countries with comparable income levels. A durable reduction in public indebtedness on the back of a retrenchment of current expenditure, rather than tax hikes, would serve to facilitate a swifter fall in real interest rates and to permit the channelling of domestic saving to finance growth enhancing investment. It would also lay the groundwork for removing distortions in the tax system, including by broadening tax bases.

So progress is being made on the deficit front, and the real issue is about the structure of public spending with more emphasis needed on infrastructural investment rather than on current spending. The politics of this are, however, complex.

Also on the monetary policy front the OECD is fairly positive:

The perception that the authorities are committed to a monetary policy framework combining inflation targeting and a flexible exchange-rate regime appears to be suitably well entrenched. The central bank enjoys de facto, but not yet de jure, operational autonomy. The policy regime has been working well, delivering continuous disinflation since 2003 and anchoring expectations. Notwithstanding these achievements, which should not be underestimated, the conduct of monetary policy is complicated by cumbersome regulations on the allocation of credit to selected sectors, especially agriculture and housing, including through mandated saving arrangements. Compulsory reserve requirements on commercial banks are also burdensome for a variety of deposit categories, although most countries that have adopted inflation targeting as the framework for monetary policymaking have now reduced or eliminated such requirements. These restrictions act as an implicit tax on the financial sector, against the backdrop of an already relatively high tax burden on financial transactions, including that of the bank debit tax (CPMF).

So changes are needed:

Consideration should be given to gradually removing the extant directed credit and reducing compulsory reserve requirements so as to improve the efficiency of the financial sector and adequately reward long-term saving, an aspect of the problem that is often overlooked. The favourable domestic macroeconomic environment, with falling inflation and improving growth prospects, appears propitious for further liberalisation in this area. At the same time, the consolidation of macroeconomic stability not only creates a need to move forward but also provides an opportunity to go beyond the current policy achievements as a means of eliminating the remaining distortions inherited from the pre-stabilisation period. The payoff from reform in this area can be considerable in terms of reducing Brazil’s stubbornly high real rates of interest, which weigh heavily on growth.

Essentially the real rate of interest needs to come down.

Incidentally this post is also cross posted from my Brazil blog project: Brazil Economy Watch.