Fifty-four newspaper articles (the most recent appeared in 1965) analyzing Uruguay’s major economic problems comprise País en crisis. These reflect declining productivity, rampant inflation, and the too-numerous unproductive citizens—including public employees (one to every 13 inhabitants, in contrast to one to 59 in The Netherlands or one to 125 in Belgium), plus an excess of pensioneers and unemployed—who burden the economy.
Arapey castigates the government for perpetuating defunct economic policies, such as currency devaluation, that fail to control inflation, depress living standards, and impede economic development. The system stands indicted for capital outflow, imbalance of payments, mounting foreign indebtedness, and constant dollar attacks on the peso. The administration allegedly collaborates with greedy capitalist-imperialists who fatten themselves on smaller nations’ weak economies. He claims that the country’s effective rate of earnings in international trade was lower in 1964 than in 1929.
Contemporary problems have been illustrated with historical parallels. For example, Arapey compares contemporary Uruguay with France on the eve of revolution, and says the country labors under an archaic latifundia system like that which weakened Rome. In that connection, backward-looking, landowning oligarchs allegedly dictate economic policies to a nation that is 84% urban.
The crisis demands sweeping fundamental reforms to curb the inflation and unemployment that will inevitably provoke violent revolution. Uruguay should identify with the “Third World” by shaking off the grip of semi-feudal economic structures. It must liberate itself from the insidious dollar neo-colonialism which he considers to be more repressive than the traditional imperialism under the flag.
He postulates that to live Uruguay must export, and that an economy not supported by reinvestment will die. Similarly, failure to institute imaginative long-range development plans will plunge the nation even deeper into economic abyss. To him, it is inexcusable that poor planning has changed Uruguay from an exporter to an importer of wheat.
His pessimism notwithstanding, Arapey foresees some hope for progress. Uruguay enjoys many advantages when compared to other (and more prosperous) nations of similar size, such as Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, and New Zealand. The population growth rate is not excessive, and the available productive land will support a prosperous agrarian-pastoral economy. The country probably cannot develop heavy industries, but it could compete more effectively in the world agricultural market. Underdevelopment, mismanagement, and failure to integrate all sectors of the economy—rather than any inherent deficiencies—have caused the present debacle.
País en crisis reads jerkily because the essays have been presented seriatim with no connective passages. Regrettably, the author’s strongly-held views emerge in a monotonous series of polemics that repeat previous conclusions.
In Cinco perspectivas five students in advanced history classes at the national university in Montevideo have published findings from researches into significant aspects of Uruguay’s socio-economic development since the mid-nineteenth century. Oscar Mourat’s “La Inmigración y el crecimiento de la población del Uruguay 1830-1930,” briefly details the process of European immigration, and Alba A. Mariani’s “Los comienzos del proceso de mestización ganadera” sketches the introduction of livestock breeding. Extensive statistical compilations support both essays. “Las Consequencias sociales del alambramiento entre 1872 y 1880,” by Raul Jacob describes wire fencing’s impact on Uruguayan society. “Aspectos de la evolución urbana de Montevideo: edificación y vivienda (1895-1914),” by Adela Pellegrino and Rosanna di Segni is a short and interesting account of dwelling construction in the capital city. Silvia Rodríguez Villamil reviews some highlights of industrial investment as depicted in various Uruguayan publications, notably La Liga Industrial, in “Un antecedente de espíritu de empresa: el industrialismo.” Professor Juan Antonio Oddone, a leading Uruguayan social historian, has written a useful introduction.
These essays suffer from the usual shortcomings of graduate student papers: tedious prose; overuse of direct quotations; voluminous listings of uninterpreted statistics, etc. Nevertheless, these seminal studies of important topics in Uruguay’s social and economic history will be useful to scholars undertaking further explorations.