Alejandro Toledo - Presidency - Economic Policy

Economic Policy

Toledo’s economic policies can be described as neoliberal or strongly pro free-trade. He inherited a national economy which in the previous decade had experienced an unstable GDP with periods of growth and shrinkage, as well as fiscal deficits frequently amounting to over 2% of GDP. Inflation had not dropped below 23% until 1995 and was still feared by many. In response, Toledo developed policies which focused on fighting poverty, generating employment, decentralizing government, and modernizing the state.

Among Toledo’s initiatives designed to generate revenue and transform the economy were plans to privatize national industries. The first major effort of this kind was the $167 million sale of two state-owned electric companies. Protests in the city of Arequipa turned violent as Peruvians reacted with anger to the prospect of layoffs and higher priced electricity. They also recalled that billions of dollars earned from privatization under the Fujimori administration had ended up filling the president’s personal bank accounts. Toledo decided not to carry out the sale of electric companies, but promised to continue privatization efforts, which were a key provision of a deal struck with the International Monetary Fund. Toledo had promised to bring in US$700 million through privatization in 2001 and US$1 billion in 2002. Although he failed to meet these goals, the IMF approved a $154 million disbursement to Peru in December 2002 and allowed the country to raise the fiscal deficit target in its agreement.

Although Toledo originally promised tax cuts, violent protests by civil servants prompted the increase in social sector spending that Toledo had also promised, which necessitated tax increases. To tackle tax reform in June 2003, he brought in Peru’s first female prime minister, Beatriz Merino who quickly submitted proposals to the congress. Among the suggestions were pay cuts for higher-paid public-sector officials, including a 30% salary reduction for Toledo himself, a 5% across-the-board cut for all agencies and ministries, tax increases on beer, cigarettes and fuel, and an extension of the 18% sales and value-added tax to, among other things, long-distance bus journeys and live entertainment. The final package also included the elimination of tax breaks, the introduction of a minimum corporate tax, the closing of tax loopholes for the rich, and the strengthening of local government realestate tax regimes.

During Toledo's five years as president, Peru's economy experienced 47 consecutive months of growth and grew at an average rate of 6% per year while inflation averaged 1.5% and the deficit sank as low as 0.2% of GDP. Between 2004 and 2006, employment grew at an average rate of 6%, the percentage of people living in poverty fell, and food consumption by the poorest segments of the population rose dramatically. Much of this growth has been credited to the free trade agreements signed with the United States, China, Thailand, Chile, Mexico, and Singapore.

In an attempt to increase remittances from Peruvians abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Toledo sought to strengthen the link between Peruvian migrants and their homeland through the creation of advisory councils. The issue is especially important for a country which experienced a massive emigration of professionals under Fujimori and which still has 10% of its population living abroad. The councils were also part of an effort by the first Minister of Foreign Affairs, García Sayan, to professionalize the foreign service.

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