Shifting to Trade for Profit: The Andean Development Corporation's Strategy during the Crisis of the 1980s

Unlike other development banks in Latin America, The Andean Development Corporation increased its lending commitments and profit margins during the early 1980s and the Lost Decade that ensued. It is counterintuitive to see the profitability of a bank´s loans surge amidst economic contraction, widespread default and spiraling inflation. The ADC was a unique Regional Development Bank (RDB), being exclusively owned and managed by developing countries, intending to lend resources to those same countries. How did an atypical RDB from a backwater subregion of the globe react to the increasingly difficult conditions of the late 1970s and the crisis-ridden years that followed? Why did the ADC succeed where others succumbed? We argue that the ADC implemented extensive changes to its loan portfolio as well as to the composition of its liabilities and their relative weight vis-à-vis the bank´s equity. Specifically, ADC advanced a two-pronged strategy. As the Corporation struggled to continue funding long-term projects in the industrial sector, it shifted its focus to increasingly financing the short-term external commercial operations within the members of the Andean Group. And as global interest rates spiked after 1978, the ADC deleveraged its balance sheet and called upon country-shareholders to subscribe escalating amounts of capital. Whilst there are works highlighting the (dis)advantages between RDBs and Multilateral Development Banks in general, to our knowledge no literature has considered the differentiated responses within RDBs, in a critical juncture, such as that of the 1980s. ADC´s main regional rival, the IADB, has been the object of study in thorough analyses, as have been other RDBs from Africa and Asia. In all these cases, a common finding in the literature has referred to the external pressures that these banks have been subjected to, in order to support programmed-based lending aimed at the promotion of market reforms - often under imposed conditionality. ADC´s case is different. Endowed with the autonomy to react to the crisis as its governing board and shareholders saw fit, ADC´s reaction strategy is unique and deserves more detailed attention.