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The Latin American Debt Crisis in Historical Perspective

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Life After Debt

Part of the book series: International Economic Association Series ((IEA))

Abstract

The debt crisis of the 1980s is the most traumatic economic event in Latin America’s economic history. During the “lost decade” that it generated, the region’s1 per capita GDP fell from 112 percent to 98 percent of the world average, and from 34 per cent to 26 percent of that of developed countries (Bértola and Ocampo, 2012, Table 1.1). In terms of its strong adverse effects, the only comparable case is the “lost half-decade” of 1998–2003 which was induced by the sequence of emerging country crises that began in East Asia in 1997. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the recent global financial crises serve as important contrasts, as Latin America performed relatively better on both occasions.

Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs and Member of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. Formerly Under-Secretary General of the United Nations for Economic and Social Affairs, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Minister of Finance of Colombia. This paper was prepared for the International Economic Association Project on “Debt Crises and Resolution” and borrows from and reproduces tables and graphs from chapters 4 and 5 of my joint book with Luis Bértola, The Economic Development of Latin America since Independence (Bértola and Ocampo, 2012), by permission from Oxford University Press. The literature on the issues covered in this paper is massive. The references are, therefore, highly selective. I thank the Ford Foundation for constant support for my work on these issues.

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Ocampo, J.A. (2014). The Latin American Debt Crisis in Historical Perspective. In: Stiglitz, J.E., Heymann, D. (eds) Life After Debt. International Economic Association Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137411488_4

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