Thursday, July 07, 2011

Uruguay’s Economic Recovery through Innovative Policies

World Bank - Country Partnership Strategy for the Republic of Uruguay
World Bank - Uruguay: From Crisis to Opportunity
U.S. Dept of State - Uruguay's Economy

Uruguay has come a long way since 2002, when it faced one of the steepest economic and financial crises to hit the country in a decade. The Argentine withdrawals from Uruguayan banks and the devaluation of Brazil’s currency caused Uruguayan goods to become less competitive. All these factors, along with the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, led to massive amounts of borrowing from international institutions and financial instability in the country. However, despite the severity of the crisis, Uruguay’s economy has bounced back, in large part due to the aid of the World Bank.

According to a recent World Bank report, Uruguay has proven very successful in its implementation of the Bank’s initiatives to bolster economic and social recovery. Poverty rates have decreased, the national debt reduced, and the health care system underwent significant reforms. In addition, the Bank also helped Uruguay to eliminate foot and mouth disease, boosting the country’s image as a reliable beef exporter.

The reforms proposed by the World Bank included structural changes and short-term stabilization policies as a way to shield the country from external economic shocks. These policies included strengthening the financial sector through a flexible menu of lending and non-lending services, developing local capital markets through innovation and infrastructure, and finally, cutting the external debt and reducing the role of the US dollar in the local economy. The Bank also sought to provide financial and technical support to Uruguay by providing loans in local currency and lowering the cost of financing.

Supported by the Bank’s program, Uruguay’s economy achieved a 6.6 percent growth on average from 2004 to 2008 and poverty declined by nearly 39 percent over the last 8 years. Public debt had decreased from 79.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2005 to 60 percent in 2009. Also, with the aid of the Bank-financed Non-Transmittable Diseases Project, Uruguay was able to restructure its health system in order to include more accessible primary care services to the population.

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