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Alejandro Simone, Economics

  • By Jacqueline Tasch, Patricia Jordan
  • Published Mar 1, 2002 8:00 AM

"Being Argentine, I lived with financial crisis, with inflation, since I was a kid," says graduate student Alejandro Simone. "That makes you interested in economics."

In 1994, when Argentina was undergoing a deep recession triggered by the Mexican financial crisis, Simone was studying economics at Universidad Di Tella in Buenos Aires. With Argentina's financial woes regularly making headlines in recent years, Simone has been at UCLA, working towards a Ph.D. in Economics and hoping for a career helping Argentina and other developing countries to prevent crises in the future.

His dissertation research is focused on that goal. Doctoral students in economics may choose to write essays on three separate topics. Each of Simone's essays asks a question: First, can financial crises, like contagious diseases, spread from country to country, even to sound economies? Second, what internal problems contribute to a country's vulnerability to international financial crises? Third, is there anything that governments can do to help protect their countries from these disruptions?

His answer to the first question is that it is very unlikely. Countries where internal economic conditions are sound usually do not find themselves "catching a crisis." Now examining the second question, Simone believes that international financial links coupled with domestic financial sector weaknesses contribute strongly to the spread of crises. When banks or institutional investors experience trouble generated by a financial crisis in a developing country, they look to reduce the risk of their portfolios by withdrawing investments from the relatively weaker developing countries and putting the money in more conservative assets. Weak economies experience a reduction in capital inflows or capital flight that exacerbates their financial sector problems and crises are triggered.

"A financial crisis is no joke for a developing country," Simone says. During his youth, he saw the effects of economic disruption firsthand: deep recessions, high unemployment and high inflation. Studying economics was the way of gaining a deeper understanding of these serious problems.

UCLA was Simone's choice for graduate studies. "To come here was a wonderful opportunity," Simone says. He hoped to work with Professor Carlos Vegh, who is now his dissertation adviser.

"Alejandro has been an excellent student, as he combines a very perceptive analytical mind with a superb understanding of the real world," Vegh says. "He has done some very interesting empirical work on financial contagion."

Simone's goal is a job with the International Monetary Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that works with developing countries to help them resolve their economic problems.

"I've been doing academic type of work for many years," Simone says. "It's time for a change, influence how economic policy is carried out, and hope that what I learned will help me make a difference."