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Public Information Notice (PIN) No. 04/140
December 23, 2004
International Monetary Fund
700 19th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20431 USA

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2004 Article IV Consultation with Mexico

Public Information Notices (PINs) are issued, (i) at the request of a member country, following the conclusion of the Article IV consultation for countries seeking to make known the views of the IMF to the public. This action is intended to strengthen IMF surveillance over the economic policies of member countries by increasing the transparency of the IMF's assessment of these policies; and (ii) following policy discussions in the Executive Board at the decision of the Board. The staff report (use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this pdf file) for the 2004 Article IV consultation with Mexico is also available.

On October 18, 2004, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Mexico.1

Background

After three years of weak activity, the broad-based recovery underway this year provides encouraging evidence that the factors holding back Mexico's growth were temporary. Business confidence and investment have risen, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows are strengthening, exports have picked up sharply, and market perceptions of Mexico remain favorable. While inflation has risen moderately above the authorities' objective, it remains far below levels historically experienced by Mexico. Higher oil prices and a recovery in non-oil exports have led to a narrowing in the current account deficit. The current account deficit has been more than matched by FDI inflows.

Economic activity accelerated to 3.8 percent in the first half of 2004 over the previous year. This recovery is partly attributable to strengthening U.S. industrial production, as reflected in growth in Mexican manufactured exports of 10½ percent (seasonally adjusted) in the first seven months of 2004 over the same period in 2003. Inflation accelerated from 4 percent at end-2003 to 5.1 percent in September, boosted by supply shocks, including a temporary suspension of some meat imports from the United States, higher oil and commodity prices, and their impact on administered prices. Core inflation was lower, standing at 3.8 percent, but has shown no signs of decelerating since early 2003.

Net international reserves increased to US$58 billion in August 2004, compared with US$48 billion at end-2002, reflecting strong PEMEX receipts. A change was made to the mechanism for auctioning international reserves in March 2004. The Banco de Mexico continues to pre-announce the amount of dollars to be sold in the market, equal to 50 percent of net reserve accumulation in the previous three-month period. The sale of dollars will now, however, be spread over the following 12 months, as opposed to three months, to reduce volatility in the amount sold throughout the year.

Targets for the traditional deficit have been met in recent years. But the pace of fiscal consolidation, viewed in terms of the augmented public sector deficit, has been slower than envisaged in the authorities' 2002 medium-term plan. While this deficit was reduced from 3.7 percent of GDP in 2000 to 3.1 percent in 2003, gross public debt rose by about 1.75 percentage points to 51 percent of GDP during those years, reflecting both currency depreciation and slow growth. For 2004, the augmented deficit is expected to remain broadly unchanged, while the traditional deficit would fall slightly to 0.4 percent of GDP, in line with budget targets. The draft budget for 2005 calls for a decline in the augmented deficit to 2.2 percent of GDP, while the traditional deficit would fall to 0.1 percent of GDP.2

The Banco de Mexico has tightened policy seven times since the beginning of 2004 via increases in the corto (the borrowed reserves objective). In addition, domestic market conditions have been affected by the two increases in the U.S. federal funds target rate. The overnight inter-bank (fondeo) rose from about 5 percent in January to slightly over 8 percent in mid-September. Long-term interest rates rose by slightly less over this period, with the 10-year government bond yield increasing from about 8½ percent in January to 10½ percent in September. The peso depreciated by 2 percent through end-September after falling by 6½ percent against the U.S. dollar in 2003.

Market sentiment toward Mexico remains positive, as reflected in its investment-grade status. After a short-lived spike to 250 basis points in mid-May as U.S. interest rates rose, Mexico's EMBI+ spread has fallen back to about 180 basis points.

The government has made significant progress in strengthening the structure of public debt. Several liability management operations, including an exchange of global bonds in early 2004, have helped to improve the efficiency of the yield curve. Domestic public debt management has concentrated on extending maturities, improving the liquidity of benchmark issues, and deepening domestic financial markets. Nevertheless, some public debt vulnerabilities remain, with a large portion of domestic debt either short term or linked to short-term interest rates. The public sector also has a significant gross financing need.

Executive Board Assessment

Executive Directors commended the Mexican authorities for their continued pursuit of sound macroeconomic policies, and welcomed signs that recently the economic recovery has strengthened and become more broadly based, while business confidence and investment have risen. Meanwhile, FDI inflows have been strong, exports have picked up, and market perceptions of Mexico remain favorable. Progress in modernizing the financial sector has continued, and balance sheets appear healthy. The key challenges going forward will be to enhance Mexico's economic performance on a lasting basis by bringing inflation down to the long-term objective, reducing debt vulnerabilities, and reinvigorating the program of structural reforms.

On fiscal policy, Directors welcomed the authorities' continuing commitment to medium-term fiscal consolidation, and commended the authorities' track record in meeting fiscal targets. They noted that the budget is dependent on volatile oil revenues. In this context, most Directors encouraged the authorities to aim at saving significantly more of the excess oil revenues for the medium term, while some considered the use of part of these revenues for productive investments to be a prudent strategy. Looking ahead, Directors urged the authorities to establish stronger mechanisms to ensure that a substantial portion of the windfall is saved. This will require redoubled efforts to ensure that medium-term expenditure reduction is combined with measures to achieve significant increases in non-oil revenues.

Directors considered that fiscal reforms will have a crucial role to play in achieving further consolidation. In particular, formal fiscal responsibility principles based on the augmented fiscal measures should be helpful in avoiding slippages in meeting medium-term targets. Directors regretted the setback to efforts aimed at enhancing the efficiency of the tax system and promoting fiscal stability. They believed that tax reform to raise non-oil revenues will be needed to avoid budget cuts that could jeopardize spending in social areas and on public infrastructure. Pension reform will also be required to ensure that the fiscal accounts remain on a sound path. Directors encouraged the authorities to take actions to enhance the accountability and efficiency of several public enterprises, including PEMEX, in order to strengthen the fiscal position and raise the quality of Mexico's infrastructure.

Directors identified several other key elements of the reform agenda that should be pursued. These include stepped up efforts to improve governance and enhance flexibility in the labor market. Directors considered that building a consensus around these efforts, as well as on actions to enhance competition in the telecommunications sector, will be vital for promoting private investment.

Regarding monetary policy, Directors recognized the success of Mexico's inflation targeting framework in bringing inflation down to low single-digit levels. They noted that, although the long-term inflation target is close to being met, sustained achievement of the target is proving to be problematic in an environment of repeated price shocks. Directors accordingly viewed the recent tightening of the monetary stance as appropriate to ensure the credibility of the authorities' commitment to lowering inflation. Looking ahead, Directors agreed that a tightening bias in policy will remain appropriate until there are clear signs that inflation expectations are declining toward the long-term objective.

Directors supported the authorities' efforts to refine monetary policy announcements to signal the policymakers' views more directly to markets. Steps in this direction have led to more stable short-term interest rates in recent months, as well as to more predictable market responses to policy actions. Directors generally agreed that there is scope to further increase transparency and predictability in policy implementation over time, including by moving to an interest rate instrument when conditions warrant. Directors were encouraged by the refinements to the inflation-targeting framework. Many Directors acknowledged the drawbacks to moving toward publication of an official inflation forecast in the immediate circumstances, given the evolving nature of monetary instruments and the risks of adding to uncertainty about policy intentions at a critical time. However, this issue should be kept under review.

Directors observed that Mexico's flexible exchange rate regime has been effective in cushioning the economy from external shocks. They viewed external competitiveness to be broadly consistent with a sustainable balance of payments position. They agreed that the rules-based mechanism for accumulating foreign reserves appropriately reflects the authorities' transparent approach to reserves management and their commitment to a market-determined exchange rate.

Directors welcomed the continued improvement in broad indicators of banking sector soundness. They noted that the banking system as a whole has a sound level of profitability and capital adequacy. A significant challenge in the period ahead will be to deepen financial activity without excessive risk-taking, and to streamline financial regulation to encourage innovation and competition. In this regard, Directors encouraged the authorities to review the operations of the nonbank financial sector and the development banks to ensure that they do not pose a source of hidden financial risks.

Directors endorsed the authorities' continued commitment to reduce vulnerabilities relating to public debt. In addition to sustained progress with fiscal consolidation, they welcomed plans to improve the debt structure further by continuing to increase fixed-rate domestic-currency instruments, extending the domestic yield curve, and diversifying the investor base.


Mexico: Selected Economic and Financial Indicators 1/


 

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003


(Annual percentage changes, unless otherwise indicated)

National accounts and prices

Real GDP

3.6

6.6

0.0

0.6

1.3

Real GDP per capita 2/

2.6

4.8

-1.5

-0.9

-0.2

Gross domestic investment (in percent of GDP)

23.5

23.7

21.1

20.8

19.8

Gross national savings (in percent of GDP)

20.5

20.6

18.2

18.6

18.4

Consumer price index (end period)

12.3

9.0

4.4

5.7

4.0

External sector

Exports, f.o.b. 3/

14.8

21.8

-3.7

0.6

4.3

Imports, f.o.b. 4/

10.6

23.1

-1.7

-1.3

1.9

External current account balance (in percent of GDP)

-2.9

-3.1

-2.9

-2.1

-1.4

Change in net international reserves (end of period, billions of U.S. dollars)

0.6

2.8

7.3

7.1

9.5

Outstanding external debt (in percent of GDP)

37.0

28.3

26.1

25.2

26.1

Total debt service ratio 5/
(in percent of exports of goods, services, and transfers)

43.2

44.6

38.4

31.1

31.0

Nonfinancial public sector (in percent of GDP)

Augmented overall balance 6/

-6.3

-3.7

-3.7

-3.3

-3.1

Traditional overall balance

-1.1

-1.1

-0.7

-1.2

-0.6

Net augmented public sector debt

46.5

42.2

41.5

43.8

45.4

Money and credit

Monetary base

43.5

10.7

8.0

17.0

15.0

Broad money (M4) (including public sector)

19.6

12.9

16.0

10.7

13.3

Treasury bill rate (28-day cetes, in percent, annual average)

21.4

15.2

11.3

7.1

6.2

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sources: National Institute of Statistics and Geography; Bank of Mexico; and Ministry of Finance and Public Credit.

1/ Methodological differences mean that the figures in this table may differ from those published by the authorities.

2/ Fund staff estimates.

3/ Includes exports less imports from in-bond industries.

4/ Excludes imports of in-bond industries.

5/ Private and public sectors.

6/ The augmented balance is the public sector borrowing requirement less nonrecurring revenues.


1 Under Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country's economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country's authorities.
2 Methodological differences mean that the figures in this document may differ from those published by the Ministry of Finance.




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