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Tue Nov 22, 2022, 01:52 PM

Argentina: 100 days of Sergio Massa's balancing act

Like the dog that didn’t bark in the famous Sherlock Holmes story, the most notable events of Argentine economy minister Sergio Massa’s first 100 days in office might be the ones that did not occur.

High inflation did not become hyperinflation. Argentine foreign reserves were not completely depleted. The political crisis did not escalate. The core group of Kirchneristas did not leave the government in revolt. And the country did not default on the IMF deal signed in March 2022 — to refinance a record, $45 billion bailout lent to former President Mauricio Macri (reportedly at Trump's behest).

None of these things were certain at the end of July, when Massa replaced the short-lived Silvina Batakis at the head of the economy ministry.

The three-month tenure for the veteran Peronist moderate and lawyer by training might not seem like a great achievement; but he deserves some credit simply for lasting this long. And he’s done more than that: He has given the ruling Frente de Todos coalition the shot in the arm it needed to reach 2023 still on its feet. Not a lot—and yet, plenty.

Massa’s ascent to the economy ministry was the outcome of a months-long and very public tug-of-war between President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner over the direction of economic policy.

But Massa, 50, has not used his power to make radical shifts.

He did not go either for a redistributive shock, as some had hoped — nor for an adjustment shock, as others had feared. Instead, he has focused his messaging on Argentina’s natural resources, touting its opportunity to become a source of “energy, proteins and minerals” for the world. His attempt to project authority and decisiveness has been combined with an attempt to build an alliance with the industrial sector, with generous pro-industry regulations.

In the process, he has won admirers in the U.S.

At: https://americasquarterly.org/article/100-days-of-sergio-massas-balancing-act/

Argentine Economy Minister (then House Speaker) Sergio Massa, President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner confer shortly before Massa's August appointment to the Economy Ministry.

The pragmatic Massa, whose decision to join the center-left 'Front for All' coalition in 2019 was decisive in Fernández's victory over hard-right incumbent Mauricio Macri that year, has once again proved his political mettle by balancing the president's commitment to fiscal restraint — with the vice president's call for more vigorous social policies in light of 88% inflation.

While the economy has been recovering, a foreign debt crisis inherited in 2019 from the Macri administration was aggravated this year by massive hikes in oil and natural gas import prices.

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