Recently, Mexico experienced large-scale trade deficits, depletion of foreign reserve holdings and a major currency devaluation in December 1994, followed by the decision to freely float the peso. These events also brought about a severe recession and higher unemployment in Mexico. Since the devaluation, however, the trade balance has improved. Investigate the Mexican experiences in detail and write a report on the subject. In the report, you may: (a) document the trend in Mexico’s key economic indicators, such as the balance of payments, the exchange rate, and foreign reserve holdings, during the period 1994.1 through 1995.12.; (b) investigate the causes of Mexico’s balance of payments difficulties prior to the peso devaluation; (c) discuss what policy actions might have prevented or mitigated the balance of payments problem and the subsequent collapse of the peso; and (d) derive lessons from the Mexican experience that may be useful for other developing countries. In your report, you may identify and address any other relevant issues concerning Mexico’s balance of payment problem.
Suggested Solution to Mexico’s Balance-of-Payments Problem
To solve this case, it is useful to review Chapter 2, especially the section on the Mexican peso crisis. Despite the fact that Mexico had experienced continuous trade deficits until December 1994, the country’s currency was not allowed to depreciate for political reasons. The Mexican government did not want the peso devaluation before the Presidential election held in 1994. If the Mexican peso had been allowed to gradually depreciate against the major currencies, the peso crisis could have been prevented. The key lessons that can be derived from the peso crisis are: First, Mexico depended too much on short-term foreign portfolio capital (which is easily reversible) for its economic growth. The country perhaps should have saved more domestically and depended more on long-term foreign capital. This can be a valuable lesson for many developing countries. Second, the lack of reliable economic information was another contributing factor to the peso crisis. The Salinas administration was reluctant to fully disclose the true state of the Mexican economy. If investors had known that Mexico was experiencing serious trade deficits and rapid depletion of foreign exchange reserves, the peso might have been gradually depreciating, rather than suddenly collapsed as it did. The transparent disclosure of economic data can help prevent the peso-type crisis. Third, it is important to safeguard the world financial system from the peso-type crisis. To this end, a multinational safety net needs to be in place to contain the peso-type crisis in the early stage.