Monday, May 02, 2011

Humala the Neostructuralist?

An excerpt from an interview given by presidential candidate Ollanta Humala on Peruvian TV last week (my translation):

Humala: First, when we talk, really about the model...we're not proposing to go outside the capitalist economic model.

Interviewer: But, the impression of many who've spoken from your would seem so.

Humala: Sure, that's why the commitment I'm making to the nation is that we're going to provide an open economy, based on the market, which is the national market economy, but which looks to create and promote other productive forces. And why is that? Because the Peruvian economy, fundamentally, depends on the rent from mining. And the mining rent is high these days because of high international mineral prices. That doesn't depend on Peru, it depends on the current international context. And if those prices fall, so does the Peruvian economy. So, we can't now be so irresponsible as to believe that international prices are going to stay high for 10 or 20 years, that's not sustainable over time. This is the moment, now there's money, to stabilize and consolidate economic growth through other productive activities such as tourism, such as agriculture, agro-industry, agro-exportation, (pastoral) farming, national industries. And that implies good quality education, to generate value-adding industries.

The most remarkable thing about these statements is how unremarkable they are. Humala's answers could come directly from an introductory development studies text, noting the drawbacks of relying on primary resource exports and stressing the need to develop a diversified, more sustainable economy with greater local participation. The role envisaged for the State in steering the economy towards greater competitiveness, especially through improved education, is in line with a broad church of thinking termed “neostructuralism” which in the Latin American context has its clearest exposition in Osvaldo Sunkel's volume Development from Within . The first-up mention of tourism as an important alternative economic activity is interestingly in tune with the arguments in chapters 3 and 4 of my thesis (forthcoming).

In short, this is pretty mainstream stuff. If we take him at his word, Humala plans to make some policy reorientations that would bring Peru more in line with just about every other South American country, with the possible exception of Colombia. Yet, you would hardly know it by the fear and loathing with which the possibility of a Humala victory in the presidential run off is being received by many in the Peruvian upper middle classes and some sections of the media. More on that in a further post.