An evaluation of exchange rate policy and economic adjustment in Nicaragua, 1993-1995

Francisco J Larios, Florida International University


Since the late 1970's, but particularly since the mid-1980s, the economy of Nicaragua has had persistent and large macroeconomic imbalances, while GDP per-capita has declined to 1950s' levels. By the second half of the 1990s, huge fiscal deficits and a reduction of foreign financing resulted in record hyperinflation. The Sandinista government's (1979–1990) harsh stabilization program in 1988–89 had only modest and short-lived success. It was doomed by their inability to lower the public sector deficit due to the war, plus diminishing financial support from abroad. Hyperinflation stopped only after their 1990 electoral defeat ended the war and massive aid began to flow in. Five years later, macroeconomic stability is still very fragile. A sluggish recovery of export agriculture plus import liberalization, have impeded a reduction of huge trade and current account deficits. Facing the prospects of diminished aid flows, the government's strategy has hinged on the achievement of a real devaluation through a crawling-peg adjustment of the nominal rate. However, at the end of 1995 the situation of the external accounts was still critical, and the modest progress achieved was attributable to cyclical terms-of-trade improvement and changes in the political outlook of agricultural producers. Using a Computable General Equilibrium Model and a Social Accounting Matrix constructed for this dissertation, the importance of structural rigidities in production and demand in explaining such outcome is shown. It is shown that under the plausible structural assumptions incorporated in the model, the role of devaluation in the adjustment process is restricted by structural rigidities. Moreover, contrary to the premise of the orthodox economic thinking behind the economic program, it is the contractionary effect of devaluation more than its expenditure-switching effects that provide the basis for is use in solving the external sector's problems. A fixed nominal exchange rate is found to lead to adverse results. The broader conclusion that emerges from the study is that a new social compact and a rapid increase in infrastructure spending plus fiscal support for the traditional agro-export activities is at the center of a successful adjustment towards external viability in Nicaragua.

Subject Area

Economics|Business costs|Latin American history

Recommended Citation

Larios, Francisco J, "An evaluation of exchange rate policy and economic adjustment in Nicaragua, 1993-1995" (1996). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9942544.