¿POR QUÉ NO PROSPERAN LOS PAÍSES?


¿Cuáles son las claves para apuntalar la competitividad de todos los sectores productivos de Bolivia y lograr así mayor prosperidad? El Foro Económico Internacional que organiza CAINCO busca ahondar en esta temática a través de la visión, el análisis y la reflexión de expertos como James A. Robinson.

Publicado por Empresa & Desarrollo, revista institucional de CAINCO / Junio 2014

“James A. Robinson es un investigador sonriente. Le gusta tanto su trabajo, le gusta tanto intentar explicar cómo funciona el mundo, que responde a las preguntas durante la entrevista con una sonrisa en la boca casi permanente”, escribió en 2013 el reportero del diario español El País, Joseba Elola, cuando entrevistó a este prestigioso economista de Harvard en su paso por Holanda para impartir una serie de conferencias en ese país.

James A. Robinson tiene un currículum impecable. Ph.D. de la Universidad de Yale, M.A de la Universidad de Warwik y economista del London School of Economics. Dictó cátedra en la Universidad de California en Berkeley, la Universidad de Southern California, en la Universidad de Melbourne y actualmente en el Departamento de Gobierno de la Universidad de Harvard. Es académico asociado del prestigioso Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. Ha publicado en diversas revistas especializadas y libros sobre temas relacionados a sus áreas de investigación. Es autor del libro ‘Why Nations Fail’ (Por qué fracasan las naciones), publicación que le ha hecho merecedor de muchos reconocimientos en el ámbito académico y político y que es un best seller según el New York Times y el Wall Street Journal; además que se situó en la lista de los 10 mejores libros del año 2012 de acuerdo a las reconocidas publicaciones Financial Times y Washington Post.

Hacer este preámbulo con una síntesis de la hoja de vida del reconocido economista James A. Robinson es inevitable cuando se tiene programada su visita a Santa Cruz para el próximo 5 de junio, fecha en la que se adueñará del escenario del Foro Económico Internacional 2014 que organiza la Cámara de Industria, Comercio, Servicios y Turismo de Santa Cruz – Bolivia (CAINCO).

El Foro Económico que organiza desde hace varios años esta institución es un espacio de reflexión y cuestionamiento en el que convergen distintas visiones, con el afán de explorar formas de desarrollo y crecimiento que permitan pasar del análisis a la acción. Este año la atención estará enfocada en la competitividad como un aspecto determinante para la prosperidad de las naciones. Es por ello que la intervención de James A. Robinson es clave.

La competitividad es definida como la combinación del ambiente institucional, las políticas públicas y los factores de producción que determinan el nivel de productividad de un país. Es decir que un país es más competitivo si su ambiente institucional y sus políticas públicas tienen como objetivo otorgar los incentivos correctos para que los individuos inviertan más, empleen más y produzcan más, aspectos que repercuten positivamente en el grado de inclusión social, bienestar y calidad de vida de los ciudadanos.

Bolivia, durante los últimos cuatro años, de acuerdo con la medición de competitividad global, ha mejorado su posición en el ranking. Sin embargo, es uno de los cuatro países menos competitivos de América del Sur y su puntuación general ha avanzado a menor ritmo que algunos de sus vecinos.

Esta situación ha motivado la temática para el desarrollo de la versión 2014 del Foro Económico, en el marco de la celebración de los 100 años de CAINCO, que profundizará en los factores clave que hagan posible que Bolivia prospere. En ese sentido, se ha invitado a prestigiosos académicos de renombre mundial y a ejecutivos de alto nivel de organismos internacionales -como el Bando de Desarrollo para América Latina CAF y el Banco Mundial, este último representado por el Dr. Peter Siegenthaler, Líder Sectorial y Economista Jefe de Países de los Andes-, a que compartan sus estudios y visiones con el objetivo de enfocar decisiones y fortalecer acciones coordinadas entre el sector privado y público para generar más progreso.

Entrevista exclusiva

James Robinson, académico de Harvard

¿Cuáles son las claves para que un país logre prosperidad?

The key is to have a set of inclusive economic institutions in society. Institutions are the rules that create incentives and opportunities. For a society to prosper it must have economic institutions that create broad based incentives for people to work hard, learn, educate themselves and their children, to save and invest for the future. They must also be given the opportunities to do this which means there cannot be coercion, monopolies, barriers to entry or discrimination. People must have equal opportunities, there must be equality before the law and a level playing field for eceryone. Lying behind such inclusive economic institutions, however, are inclusive political institutions: a broad distribution of political power in society and an effective state.

A su criterio ¿qué importancia tiene la competitividad para el crecimiento y el desarrollo de las naciones?

Different people mean different things by competitiveness. A basic idea in economics is that every country and every person is good at something relative to others. This is the idea of comparative advantage. Countires and people specialize and trade with each other. For a country like Bolivia it is crucial to take advantage of such comparative advantages and engage with the world economy. But competitiveness has other important meanings. Sometimes it is used in the sense of productivity, a country is competitive if it has very high levels of productivity so its goods can out compete others on world markets. This is important to and boosting productivity is exactly what having inclusive economic institutions will do. This is because productivity is all about innovation and creativity and using the talent and entrepreurship of people in society. Inclusive institutions unlock this talent.

¿Cómo repercute, para el éxito o el fracaso de un país, la forma en que éste se organiza? ¿Es esto un factor determinante para su desarrollo económico?

The form in which a country is organized is crucial for its economic development. As we show in Why Nations Fail, Bolivia is not a poor country today because it is landlocked or suffers from adverse geography or cultural impediments. The problem is that in the past it has been organized “extractively”, for the benefit of some, but to the detriment of the vast mass of the population who lacked incentives and opportunities. These extractive institutions, both economic and political, have kept Bolivia poor.

Según su análisis, la riqueza natural de un país no es necesariamente determinante para que éste sea próspero ¿Qué hace que países con las mismas características poblacionales, culturales o geográficas sean tan diferentes en su economía?

Yes that is correct. Many countries that completely lack natural resources, like South Korea, have been very successful economically, while resource rich countries, like Nigeria, have performed very poorly. The key factor that distinguishes economic success from failure is economic institutions. Think of North and South Korea. They have very similar natural resources, same people, same language and culture yet South Korea is a rich country and North Korea is poorer tan Bolivia. This is completely due to their different institutions. South Koreans have incentives and opportunities, North Koreans have none.

En su libro ‘Why Nations fail’ plantea los conceptos de economías inclusivas y economías extractivas ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre una y otra?

The main difference is that extractive institutions are designed to benefit narrow elites who hold power at the expense of the vast mass of the people. Think of colonial Bolivia and the Potosi mita the great system of forced labor that cperced people into working in the silver mines of Potosi. This greatly benefitted the Spanish state and creole elites at the expense of the mass of Bolivians. This type of labor coerción carried on right untiul the Revolution of 1952 when Pongueaje was finally abolished. Inclusive institutions are different, they do not coerce, they créate incentives and opportunities for all.

¿Se puede pasar de ser una economía extractiva a una inclusiva? ¿Cómo podría impactar este cambio?

In the book we emphasize that the transition which marks a change from extractive to inclusive institutions usually involves conflicto. Inclusive institutions are demanded and forced upon elites, not willingly created. But conflicts do not always créate inclusive institutions. Think of the Bolivian Revolution. This seemed like it was going to créate a new society, and it did have beneficial effects but mostly it replaced the traditional elite with a new one, the MNR. We argue in the book that the nature of the conflicto is important. Inclusive institutions emerge when a broad coalition of groups in society contest the power of extractive institutions. The important question is whether or not the large changes we have seen in Bolivia in the last decade with the rise of the MAS, a much boarder and diverse political movement than the MNR, really represents such a broad coalition which can transform Bolivian institutions.

¿Una economía inclusiva puede sacar de la pobreza a un país?

Yes out of poverty and inequality. There is absolutely no fundamental reason why Bolivia is not as prosperous as the United States. The reason that it is not is that it has suffered from a 500 year history of extractive institutions. Change that and you’ll have a very different future.

¿Cuáles cree que son los aciertos y los desaciertos de América Latina actualmente? ¿Y de Bolivia?

I think there are many strengths in Latin America. Compared to the past democracy has spread everywhere, though it is still challenged (think of recent coups in Honduras and attempted ones in Ecuador and Venezuela). This is an important part of moving towards more inclusive institutions. This has gone along with steady, though far too slow, improvements in education, health and social welfare. Latin America has also abandonned failed development models, such as important substitution industrialization.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of concerns. Democracy is in many cases very low quality, with a lot of fraud, vote buying and clientelism. Moreover, having inclusive institutions is not simply about democracy in terms of universal suffrage and free and fair elections, though this is important. Constraints on the use of power are also crucial, so instances where these have been severely reduced, for example in Venezuela, move democracy in the wrong direction. States are also weak in Latin America, under-resources and often too clientelistic and still based on deals and not rules. Lying behind a great deal of this is the massive extent of inequality which still undermines inclusivity in the political and economic domains.

The partial nature of this movement towards inclusive institutions is why Latin America remains so far below its economic potential.

I am optimistic about Bolivia. I think it has moved a long way towards inclusive institutions. It has consolidated democracy and it seems to me that in the last decade a great empowerment of indigenous people has taken place and this is a great thing for the future of the country. Still, there are many challenges to creating inclusive institutions. Constraints on the use of power, such as term limits and constitutional checks and balances have been challenged and Bolivia is still far from having a strong, properly funded and inclusive state. But it has great opportunities. It is rich in natural resources which can help, if the wealth they generate is allocated in socially desirable ways, for example investing in people’s education and health. The important thing is for Bolivia to keep deepening inclusive institutions, both political and economic and not be sidetracked by populism or short-term political incentives.

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