< HOME  Monday, April 10, 2006

Markets Shudder at Prospect of Nationalist Peru

Ah, the smell of nationalism at election time warms the heart - but not the markets! Financial markets and foreign investors brace themselves for a possible victory by presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, a nationalist who vows to fight multinational companies.
Humala advocates giving Peru's poor a greater share of the nation's mineral wealth and redoing contracts with foreign companies to make the state an equal partner.
Markets don't like that.

Four exit polls gave Humala a plurality victory in Sunday's vote, which means a runoff election will be held against an as yet undetermined rival.

A Humala victory would put Peru in the camp of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales, who favor curbing company profits to help the poor benefit from the region's oil and mineral wealth. . . .

Humala won support among Peru's 13 million poor for pledging to fight the multinational companies he says are looting the nation's natural resources. Half of Peru's 27 million inhabitants survive on less than $1 a day, according to Farid Matuk, director of the National Statistics Institute in Lima. . . .

Peru is the world's fourth-largest producer of copper, the fifth in gold, the third of zinc and the largest of fish meal. The country has Latin America's fifth-largest reserves of natural gas.

One of his opponents . . .
Lourdes Flores . . . campaigned on pledges to support free trade with the U.S., grant greater access to credit and training for farmers and small businesses and respect contracts signed between the government and investors.
You can guess who wants her to win.
Michael Gomez, who manages about $28 billion of dollar- denominated emerging market debt for Pacific Asset Management Co. in Newport Beach, California, said a Flores-Humala runoff would be "welcome news."

"Flores is generally perceived as market friendly, and also was forecasted in polls to defeat Humala in a second round run-off should that pairing materialize," Gomez said in an e-mailed response to questions after exit polls were published last night. Pimco was the largest holder of Peru's 9 1/8 percent bond due 2012 as of January.

On the other hand . . .
A run-off between Mr García [a third candidate] and Mr Humala would be a nightmare scenario for local and international business interests. Although Mr García has promised market-friendly policies, he is widely distrusted because of his record in government from 1985 to 1990, when banks were nationalised and debt payments restricted. [hot dang!] When he left office, inflation was running at more than 7,000 per cent and Maoist Shining Path guerrillas [no doubt, backed by financiers] were threatening to take over the state.
Let's keep our fingers crossed!

And to make things interesting . . .
[Humula's] father, Isaac, founded the Etnocacerista movement, a group that takes its name from field marshall and former President Andres Avelino Caceres, a hero of Peru's losing 1879-1883 War of the Pacific against Chile.

The movement fosters xenophobia against Chile, the United States and Israel as part of a platform that also includes indigenous demands and Inca myths.
All the more reason for financial markets to oppose him, as indeed they already have.
Humala [complained] that he was the victim of a "fascist act ... (and an) organized ambush" by his political rivals, who "marred the election" when an anti-Humala crowd gathered at the Ricardo Palma University, where he showed up to cast his ballot.
But, should Peruvians suspect fraud during elections . . .
Lloyd Axworthy, head of the Organisation of American States' observer mission in Peru, told the FT that the nationalist "has warned us directly that he could take street action in response to the perception of fraud".
That'll teach 'em not to mess with the democratic process!


At Monday, April 10, 2006, Blogger tomtom said...

Maybe not an appropriate comment but it is related anyway and I like you guys to know.

This is an excerpt of an article by Paul de Beer that appeared in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad April 8th regarding various protest around Europe about the social economic situation in some countries.

European protesters are right: Happiness is more important than money.

In the past years, more and more economists came to the conclusion that economic growth doesn't make people more happy. That is if a country reaches a respectable level of prosperity. Happiness clearly increases parallel to the income until it reaches BNP ( 23000 US in The Netherlands) Above this amount the bond between income level and level of happiness disappears gradually.

In his book " Happiness" UK economist Richard Layard comes with the following explanation that was put forward roughly 30 years ago by Dutch economist Bernard van Praag. Money will only bring happiness to people if they have more of it: more money than others, more money than in the past.

There will be no enduring happiness when everybody gets the same increase in income. The relative income level remains the same. A general increase in income may make people more happy for a short while, but evaportes when we get used to to the new income level.

For individuals it is significant to to improve their position in regard to others or to the past because it will generate more happiness. And when they are successful that happiness will cost others part of theirs. So the total happiness balance will remain zero or even go into a negative value since getting behind is valued worse then taking a lead.

This all resulted in the notorious rat race with all its negative impact. But the majority in Europe choose to have a society that is more a solidarity one and egalitarian even when that means less economical growth.

European politicians and policy makers clearly have a different view right now but if they are wise they should not ignore the signals from this society.

TomTom, Fearless Navigator

At Monday, April 10, 2006, Blogger qrswave said...

Thanks for sharing, TomTom.

There are two very important things to note in this analysis. First, the main factor propelling people to earn more money is so that they can compare favorably to their neighbor. Having more money than you had in the past is not a big motivator, except as compared to another's rate of progress. The main impetus here is vanity, or arrogance - the belief that you are better than others.

Second, the reason why one man's gain is another man's loss springs directly from the priniple upon which our economies are based - exploitation.

For starters, our monetary system is exploitative through the use of private debt creation plus interest, and our corporate legal system is exploitative inasmuch as it allows and indeed encourages profiteering on the part of shareholders and executives at the expense of workers and the evironment.

So, we've identified two principal evils (1) arrogance or vanity that keeps us perpetually focused on having more power/control/material possessions than the next person; and (2) legal relationships that permit/ encourage exploitation by the powerful of the vulnerable.

Voila! We end up with a self-propelled cannibalistic system, voracious and unsustainable in character. It's no wonder everyone's unhappy.


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