Argentina’s new economic “super minister” pledged on Wednesday to respect the crisis-wracked country’s commitment with the IMF to reduce its public deficit to 2.5 percent this year.
As part of the Latin American nation’s long-running negotiations with the IMF to restructure a US$44 billion debt, authorities had agreed to progressively reduce the public deficit from 3 percent last year to 0.9 percent by 2024.
“We will meet the goal of the 2.5 percent primary fiscal deficit. We will make the necessary corrections to comply with our word,” Argentine Minister of Economy, Production and Agriculture Sergio Massa said in an announcement of his first measures as a new “super minister.”
Massa is also now in charge of relations with international organizations.
Speaking at a news conference after being officially presented with his new job by Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, Massa described inflation as the “biggest poverty factory” in the country.
Argentine inflation for the first half of this year topped 36 percent, and is predicted to reach 80 percent by the year’s end.
“Inflation is one of the main issues to fight. The last month and the one just started will be the most difficult in terms of inflation and from there we will begin a downward curve,” said Massa, 50, a lawyer by trade who on Tuesday resigned as president of the Argentine lower house of congress to accept his new post.
Massa brushed aside the monicker “super minister,” saying: “I’m not a ‘super’ anything — not a magician, nor a savior. I have come to work in a very determined way.”
Fernandez, speaking at Massa’s swearing-in, hailed a “new stage of government.”
“I am convinced we will come through successfully,” he added.
Massa became Argentina’s third minister of the economy in the past few months. Late last month, economist Silvina Batakis was let go less than a month after being chosen by Fernandez to fill the spot suddenly vacated by Martin Guzman, the architect of the debt refinancing deal who had served in the role since December 2019.
In his speech, Massa pledged to tackle the “two-sided Argentina” where there is some economic growth and employment, but “a huge lack of confidence in the currency, spending disorder, public investment gaps and a huge injustice in income distribution.”
One of Massa’s toughest challenges is to increase Argentina’s available international reserves, which analysts have said are at critical levels.
Massa on Wednesday announced an agreement with exporters to advance sales and bring about US$5 billion into the nation’s central bank within 60 days.
However, a problem he cannot solve is the ongoing power struggle inside the ruling Frente de Todos political coalition between Fernandez and Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner, a former president.
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