In This Review

Economic Transformation: The Mexican Way
Economic Transformation: The Mexican Way
By Pedro Aspe
The MIT Press, 1993, 280 pp.

An elaboration of the Robbins Lectures at the London School of Economics, this book provides an admirable overview of recent Mexican economic policy by one of its major architects and policymakers, the minister of finance in the administration of President Carlos Salinas.

Mexico's transformation over the past decade is a remarkable story involving the reversal of the policies of half a century, especially with regard to international trade, foreign investment, private ownership of major enterprises, and detailed regulation of the economy, as well as a reversion to the historical pattern of fiscal conservatism, which had been abandoned in the 1970s and early 1980s. All is discussed here.

This effort demonstrates both the strengths and the weaknesses of writing by sitting ministers. It is well-informed, accurate, and comprehensive but offers a minimum of criticism, even of the actions by predecessor governments that led to the economic debacle of the early 1980s. And it contains no discussion, which policymakers are uniquely able to provide, of the internal debates over the substance and timing of the measures adopted. It gives the impression that there were no political dilemmas; on the contrary, the new measures are characterized as a natural evolution in the development of Mexico.

The book is noteworthy, however, for exposing the thought processes of a new kind of politician, the "technopol." The author holds a Ph.D. from MIT, is familiar with the current professional literature, has a good technical grasp of his material, and is comfortable thinking about "models" of the economy and the impact of institutional changes and new policies on the values of the technical coefficients in such models. Aspe represents a new breed of politician increasingly common in developing countries.