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Stiglitz is Right, Friedman is Wrong

Stiglitz is Right, Friedman is Wrong

Among the throng of distinguished international guests participating in the first democratic transition of government in Paraguay’s 190-year history, former chief World Bank economist and current Columbia Professor of economics Joseph Stiglitz (who also was an advisor to the Clinton White House) was undoubtedly the most influential. Two days before left-leaning president-elect Fernando Lugo’s inauguration, Stiglitz’s lecture on globalization and equitable growth drew a full house to the “Grand Theater” of Paraguay’s central bank. Elites of various stripes filled the auditorium’s plush seats, as the country’s largest soy estate farmers, ranchers, industrialists, business leaders, and civil-society leaders showed up for a glimpse of what the new government’s economic and social policy might look like.

Notwithstanding the persistence of international media prophe cies that Hugo Chavez’s economic game plan for Venezuela would be duplicated in Asuncion, President Lugo has given plenty of indication that he aims to provide pragmatic leadership. One tip-off to this is his naming of U.S.-educated macro-economist Dionisio Borda as Minister of Finance. Broadly respected and considered highly competent, Borda occupied the same post for two years in the outgoing government, where he headed a successful effort to balance public finances and achieve macroeconomic stability before resigning in protest over the failure of the prior Duarte administration to introduce more structural reforms of the public bureaucracy. Borda has emerged once again as the central figure of the team named by newly inaugurated President Fernando Lugo to execute his expressed goals of public-sector reform, equitable growth, and environmental sustainability. However, despite all attempts to distance himself from South America’s more muscular left, Lugo—lik e Brazilian president Lula on the eve of his inauguration—must weather the local elite’s deep apprehension over a government that counts among its mandates a directive to reduce the country’s grave social and economic inequalities.


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