Antonio Ortiz Mena – Mexico’s Economic Expansion Master

Antonio Ortiz Mena was born in the City of Parral in the State of Chihuahua (April 16 of 1907), a Mexican Economist who completed his basic studies at the Colegio Aleman, Colegio Franco- Ingles and the National Preparatory School in Mexico City. He also entered the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Law.

Antonio Ortiz Mena served as President of the Inter-American Development Bank (BID) from the years 1971 through 1988. He also played a remarkable role as Secretary of Finance (Ministry of the Treasury) during the administrations of Adolfo Lopez Mateos and Gustavo Diaz Ordaz during 1958 – 1970.

Early Professional Years

From 1932 to 1936, he held minor public positions. He worked at the nowdefunct Department of the Federal District and later he gained some financial experience as assistant to the director of the National Urban Mortgage Bank. This was during the years 1936 -1945. 

Afterwards He was named deputy director (1946 – 1952) of the National Urban Mortgage Bank. This was when President Adolfo Ruiz Cortinez promoted him to general director of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) for the years 1952 through 1958.

Ministry of the Treasure

Antonio Ortiz Mena is always remembered as one of the most successful Ministries of the Treasury that Mexico has ever had. During 1958 to 1970 he was in charge of Mexico’s Finances and Public Credit Ministry. For this 12 year period there was sustained economic growth under Presidents Lopez Mateos and Diaz Ordaz.

Pedro Aspe, was also one of the most prestigious Ministries of the Treasury in Mexico. He was in charge almost two decades later when he pointed out that during Ortiz Mena’s tenure Mexico’s income per capita grew 3.4% annually. During the same 12 year period the economic growth of the Country averaged 6% yearly.

In his book La Herencia, Jorge Castañeda explains that Luis Echeverria remembers that it was Ortiz Mena who managed the finances of Mexico with great ability. He maintained contact with the most powerful and affluent people in Mexico. He was featured in an issue of Forbes Magazine with figures such as Carlos Slim and Emilio Azcarraga Milmo. Ortiz Mena maintained at all times the strong financial backing of the United States.

Mr. Mena created the “Stabilized Development” strategy during the time periods when the Mexican economy experienced some of its greatest growth. This Stabilized Development was characterized as a time when the Country enjoyed steady development with stability. This was when agro production was substituted by industrial output. Under Ortiz Mena’s tenure as Ministry of the Treasury, industrial growth in Mexico registered dramatic expansion in the internal market. This was, in part, facilitated by urban growth and the effects of land reform. In addition to this there was fundamental consolidation of the infrastructure in communications and the energetic sector. This was of great importance in terms of the participation of foreign investment that transformed Mexico’s industrial sector.

Aspe also recognized that inflation for the most part remained below 3% and millions entered the middle class as the country began its renovation from a largely rural to an industrial economy. On several occasions he was considered for the presidency as representative of the then-hegemonic PRI. He had the support of important politicians like Miguel Aleman.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB or IDB or BID)

After his tenure as Ministry of the Treasury, the Governments of Mexico and the U.S. supported his bid to become President of the Inter-American Development Bank. This meant replacing Chilean Felipe Herrera, the Bank’s founding chairman.

At the meeting of the Ministries of Economy and Finances, celebrated in Brazil in 1954, when the process of the creation of the Bank was initiated, he was the alternate representative of the Mexican delegation. He was a very active participant in the meeting. Before his introduction to the BID, as we earlier explained,, he was in charge of Mexico’s Ministry of the Treasury for 12 years. This took place between 1958 through 1970. This period is remembered as one of the most prosperous epochs in the history of the Mexican economy.

In November, 1970, despite both Argentina and Venezuela nominating different candidates, Ortiz Mena still received the majority of the votes. He remained as president of the Bank for 17 years until his resignation in 1988, three years before the end of his last term. According to the New York Times, during his tenure lending increased tenfold and he concentrated most of the bank’s efforts in support of Latin American infrastructure projects, including heavy industries and the first financing operations for microenterprises.

There are many achievements attributed to him as President of the BID. Some of the most remarkable are, for example, the Declaration of Madrid. This allowed for the incorporation of countries from outside the Occidental Hemisphere. As a result this brought an increase in financial resources for the IADB as well as an increase in the number of partner Countries from 23 to 44. This included 15 European countries, in addition to Israel and Japan. During this time period Canada and many Anglo countries from the Caribbean also entered.

During his tenure the loans from the BID increased 10 times. They grew from US$4 billion in 1970 to US$40 billion. For Mr. Ortiz Mena, the financing of entrepreneurial projects, as well as technical cooperation with countries, were vital conjuncts. And in the year 1978 he launched the Bank’s first program for micro companies, as well as the program for smaller projects. He also expanded financial programs for countries with lower relative development.

Back in Mexico

After the IADB, He returned to Mexico to become the Director of BANAMEX, one of the country’s top commercial banks. He died at the age of 99 on March 12th, 2007, in Mexico City.