In Global Economic Crisis, Mexico Is Resilient

Editor's Note: When the New York Times reached out to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim for a $250 million loan to keep the newspaper afloat, it became clear to the world what Mexicans already knew: Mexico had been able to avoid the worst of the U.S. economic crisis. Mexico's stock market fell 23 percent in 2008, the "best" performing major index at a time when the U.S. markets fell 38 percent. Here's how they did it. MERIDA, Mexico The economic crisis sweeping the globe has spared no nation, but some are showing remarkable resilience. Mexico's economic performance, for example, has shown tremendous strength. When the U.S. Federal Reserve extended a loan of $30 billion each to the central banks of Brazil, South Korea, Singapore and Mexico, Mexico did not touch those funds. It simply reinvested them in Treasury bonds, leaving them in accounts in New York. This is no accident. It stems from prudent economic policies implemented after the December 1994 devaluation of the Mexican peso that sent the economy into a tailspin. At that time, President Ernesto Zedillo had been in office a few days, and his entire agenda was thrown into disarray by the crisis. The Clinton administration had to issue an emergency $50 billion loan - which Mexico paid back ahead of schedule and with interest - and the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, helped craft a recovery program. It was a painful adjustment as budgets were slashed, fiscal restraint was implemented across the board, and the Mexican people saw their investments and savings diminish. That was 15 years ago, and the lessons learned the hard way are now paying off: Mexico's stock market fell 23 percent in 2008, the "best" performing major index at a time when the U.S. markets fell 38 percent and Russian markets collapsed by an astounding 70 percent. Last fall, some feared that the Mexican economy would not be able to escape the turmoil engulfing the United States, and the Mexican peso fell almost 30 percent vis-à-vis the American dollar. It has since recovered, although it has suffered a 20 percent devaluation since the economic crisis began last summer. These currency fluctuations reflect the fact that, because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, neither Mexico nor Canada have "decoupled" from the U.S. economy. There are several reasons for Mexico's economic resilience. One is the fiscal restraint that Zedillo initiated and that his successor, Vicente Fox, continued. Fox, a former corporate executive, made significant strides in eliminating Mexico's foreign debt. Mexico's current president, Felipe Calderon, has kept spending in line, even as revenues have increased. When disaster struck, Mexico had a balanced budget, almost no foreign debt and rising federal revenues, allowing it to intervene to stabilize prices.

Will this be enough to prevent Mexico from slipping into recession in 2009? Probably not. "They're great traders. Americans roll their eyes at the bureaucracy this entailed . an analyst at Alaron Trading Corp. credit card applications must be made in person at the financial institution. And Mexico is collecting $90 to $110 per barrel today. "The U. believing that they could finance anything they wanted.Mexico also dodged the housing speculation that brought its neighbor to its knees. "If the economy continues to slow. and it was nearly impossible for a housing bubble to emerge there. they're looking like geniuses." Other countries most notably Venezuela and Russia ." The world economy has more than slowed: It has hit a wall. with slacking demand due to the recession. and not over the phone or through unsolicited mail-in applications. the state-owned oil monopoly. which is already happening.two forms of ID are required to open a bank account in Mexico. didn't believe that price was sustainable. where their signature and ID are verified. their economic models indicated that. for oil that is trading in the $38 to $45 range at the beginning of 2009. "identity theft" is almost non-existent in Mexico. considering the global situation.. saving the oil windfall. there was disbelief around the world: Would it shoot up to $200 or fall back? The conventional wisdom was that $100 a barrel for oil was the new reality going forward. Mexico is getting a premium. and reckless. Mexico. as developing countries. and Mexican traders implemented a strategy that hinged on the price of oil falling below the $60 to $80 range. enough to sustain social spending without massive federal deficits. by comparison. and there was a frenzy to lock in prices through futures contracts. a price range between $60 and $80 was "sustainable. was prudent. Mexico's financial system has always been stringent in extending credit. Having hedged its exports. When oil peaked at $147 a barrel last summer. As a result." Ernesto Zedillo told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos. needs to show some proof they have a plan to get out of the fiscal problem.the United States is in its 14th month of official recession . need to know we won't be crowded out of the capital markets. but the fact that it has managed to escape a debilitating slowdown . Switzerland last week. "We. and a significant windfall that will total several billion dollars this year. Mexican officials at Pemex. when customers request checks. Both countries let spending explode. said of Pemex futures traders.S." . The economies in both countries today are in freefall." Phil Flynn. they have to pick them up at the bank.were more ambitious. Another factor is the windfall oil profits despite the sudden drop in oil prices.suggests that whatever economic slowdown there is will be relatively mild.

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