UPDATE 2-Mexico taps economist for central bank policy post

* Central bank’s chief economist to join board

* Ramos has long career as economist in Mexico

* Analysts say hard to label as hawk or dove
(Adds quotes and background)

By Tomas Sarmiento

ACAPULCO, Mexico, April 8 (Reuters) – Mexican President
Felipe Calderon nominated the central bank’s chief economist
Manuel Ramos to sit on the institution’s policy board, tapping
a veteran of two financial crises to help steer Mexico’s
economy.

Central bank chief Agustin Carstens told reporters on
Friday Ramos’ nomination had been sent to the Senate, where
lawmakers must approve his appointment as deputy governor.

Despite years of experience at the top of Mexico’s
technocratic elite, it was not clear whether Ramos, 49, would
inject new inflation-fighting fervor into the central bank.

In his frequent speeches, Ramos tends to focus on economic
forecasting, steering clear of arguments about policy, and
analysts said it was hard to pick his personal bias.

“He has always been very prudent and analytic, and I think
he’ll stay that way. There’s no reason to see him as having an
intrinsic position (about inflation),” said Santander economist
Rafael Camarena.

Mexico has lagged Latin American peers Brazil and Chile in
raising interest rates as the region has helped drive the world
recovery from the 2008-2009 crisis. At the same time, inflation
in Mexico has been particularly tame and in March was spot on
the central bank’s 3 percent target.

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For a factbox on the central bank board: [ID:nN08112920]

For a factbox on cenbank chief Carstens: [ID:nN31220972]

For an analysis on cenbank minutes: [ID:nN23264133]
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Ramos, who holds a PhD in economics from Yale University,
has been Banco de Mexico’s top economist since 2003.

He was the finance ministry’s chief economist between 1995
and 1999 — a period in which Mexico suffered a collapse of its
currency and a recession even deeper than the one it
experienced in 2008 and 2009. The mid-1990s was also a time in
which Mexico struggled with double-digit inflation.

ECONOMIC EXPERTISE

The five-member policy board at the central bank has been
down one person since Guillermo Guemez retired at the end of
2010. While all members have an equal voice, the central bank
chief is traditionally the public face of the bank in
explaining policy to the public.

Not all of the board is made up of professional economists
— deputy governor Roberto Del Cueto is a lawyer. Guemez was
an engineer.

Ramos “will bring academic balance to the board,” said JP
Morgan economist Gabriel Casillas.

Well known in Mexican markets, Ramos is also associated
closely with Guillermo Ortiz, who established the central
bank’s inflation-fighting credentials in the late 1990s until
Carstens replaced him in 2010. Before joining the central bank,
Ramos worked under Ortiz at the finance ministry.

“He doesn’t seem to be from Carstens’ camp. He seems more
like Ortiz, which is positive because it’s good for there to be
different opinions at the bank,” said Eduardo Suarez, a
strategist at RBC in Toronto.

Most economists believe Mexico will wait until early 2012
before it raises its benchmark rate from 4.5 percent.

Casillas said he would not classify Ramos as either
tolerant of inflation or particularly aggressive in fighting
it.

“Whenever there are inflation pressures, he tends to be a
bit hawkish, but if he sees that growth is not going well and
there are no inflation pressures, he can be a real dove.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Ramos would serve an eight-year
term as deputy governor.
(Writing and additional reporting by Jason Lange; further
reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Dan Grebler)

UPDATE 2-Mexico taps economist for central bank policy post