What could mean the arrival of Mauricio Macri as new President of Argentina
The National Elections of Sunday November 22nd could be seen as a turning point for Argentina, something that promises much more than leaving behind 12 years of the Kirchnerist Populism that plunged the country into an unnecessary political, economic and institutional crisis, which is to come to an end with the appointment of Mauricio Macri as the country’s new President.
Despite the narrow electoral margin, many believe that Argentina took an important step towards a more mature republican democracy. It was the success of the “Yes we can” – a message of peace and union to Argentines, tired of absurd ideological battles that seemed only to conceal the perpetuation in power of the ruling party with its sadly vociferated “vamos por todo”, which in practical terms meant that the K’s expected to remain in power for ever and ever and control the three powers; just like the Castro family in Cuba and Chavez in Venezuela. Thanks God, the Sic Transit Gloria Mundae prevailed.
On Monday November 23rd something already began to change when the Argentines woke up and were able to see and hear the first press conference delivered by the president-elect, in which Mr. Macri answered all sorts of questions to the most diverse journalism for more than one hour. Then, during the rest of the week, while the appointments of cabinet ministers were made public, it was not the elected president, but those incoming officers the ones who answered all sorts of questions, something so common in any republican democracy, but that was hardly seen during the K regime.
The new president is seen as an educated, cordial and affectionate man who seems to listen with the same attention with which he speaks and who, at the same time, shows confidence despite the widespread concern for the country he will receive from Cristina Kirchner next December 10th.
Mr. Macri’s political party will rule the whole country, including its main province (state), Buenos Aires, while continuing to do so in the Capital City, Buenos Aires. His political allies under the Cambiemos Alliance will govern important provinces, such as Santa Fe, Córdoba, Entre Ríos, Mendoza and Jujuy. Non Kirchnerist Peronists (good potential allies) are to govern other important provinces like Salta and Neuquén. It is true that Kirchnerism will retain many provinces, but not by coincidence the most currently in need of K populist assistance. In this respect, Mr. Macri promises a serious federalism, so it should not come as a surprise if the vast majority of the 23 governors end up supporting the new president. In a Parliament now controlled by peronists and kirchnerists, Mr. Macri and his coalition will have to rely on provincial governors and establish with them a refreshed relationship based on a better sharing of federal fiscal resources. It is important to point out the high democratic quality of many peronist leaders who advocate for reinventing the party founded by General Juan Domingo Perón and propose a final divorce between Kirchnerism and Peronism
The challenge starts now, and Wall Street and the World see us with optimism and enthusiasm. The affectionate phone calls Mr. Macri received from several presidents around the world – highlighting the case of Barak Obama and Francois Hollande, confirm it. Both presidents expressed their desire to visit Argentina in the forthcoming months, a very good sign at a time in which the world –and those leaders in particular- faces the jihadist madness. It is unfortunate to say that Argentina has not received a single G8 president visit in years.
Spanish Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, suggested taking the bilateral relations to the level that they always had, being Spain one of the main and traditional investors of Argentina, at the same time so battered by Kirchnerism. On his part, British Prime Minister David Cameron also phoned Mr. Macri and while both agreed to resume relations, an invitation was made to pursue a path of open dialogue.
In South America, many Venezuelans celebrate the promise of our president-elect to immediately demand Mercosur to force Maduro´s regime to respect democracy and human rights in his country, which confirms a radical shift in our foreign policy and could also mark the beginning of the end of the left in the region.
President-elect Macri also paid a visit this week to the Chinese Ambassador in Buenos Aires and confirmed his deep interest in continuing the relationship of cooperation between both countries. However, he also expressed that from now on the bilateral relationship should be governed by more transparency, which means that the secret clauses of some current agreements between governments must be fully disclosed. The same applies to the secret clauses of the agreements entered into in 2014 with the now state-controlled oil company YPF and the American Chevron, which will be made public in the next days following a ruling from the Argentinean Supreme Court of Justice.
Finally, Mr. Macri’s announcement that he is to promote the immediate abrogation of the shameful Pact with Iran of 2013 (in which the Iranians never believed and thus never ratified) was another great message to the world, as well as to the Jewish Community, so hurt after the terrorist attacks of 1992 and 1994 and also under the K regime. It should be noted that Rabbi Bergman, a leading figure, will be part of Macri´s new cabinet.
Notably, the appointment of Ms. Susana Malcorra -current right hand of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon– as Secretary of State, predicts a rapid reinsertion into to a World and G20 that had begun to consider Argentina an irrelevant country.
The new president has repeatedly promised to now seriously make of Argentina a normal country, a sentence that has a strong meaning for us (the same was said by Nestor Kirchner when taking office in 2003), and which suggests that Mr. Macri wants Argentina to become again a predictable place to do business and to undertake opportunities in many different areas that the country has to offer. In order to do that, Mr. Macri chose for his new cabinet people who many consider to be the best of the best, a cabinet in which solo politicians are to give room to the more prepared ones, including successful professionals and community leaders who will generously leave aside their careers to put their skills at the service of the new government and the people, something highly remarked by major international investment banks and funds these days. In addition, the unexpected decision of Mr. Macri to let the current Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Lino Barañao, now serving under Ms. Kirchner’s government, to continue in office, has been a clear message that he will recruit those who are better prepared, regardless of their political banner. Mr. Barañao is perhaps one of the very few ministers under the outgoing administration who served with professionalism.
But it won´t all be a bed of roses since Kirchnerism will try to complicate things for the new government, seeking, among other purposes, to return to power in 2019. Here Mr. Macri´s message of “no more revenge and disunity” is, however, far from meaning that the Judiciary will have its hands tied when it comes to investigating and punishing the acts of corruption of the outgoing government. An Arm of Love and Justice, as Argentine Pope Francis said last weekend during his visit to Bangui.
As to the economy, leaving aside the fact that the technical team does not yet know what cash reserves it will find on December 10th, Argentina will not have the tailwind of the high prices of the commodities our country produces and exports. But Macri, among his wide range of measures to reactivate the economy in the short term, promises several incentives and tax cuts to encourage exports and to boost the regional economies. We hope Macri’s market-friendly approach will reboot the industrial and agricultural sectors, as well as trade, irrationally paralyzed under the outgoing regime that is leaving us with several skeletons in -and out- of the closet.
The head-on attack against inflation will be the new government top priority, alongside with ending the absurd currency controls imposed by the K government at the end of 2011, which only brought about an unprecedented capital flight.
The ambitious Road and Train Infrastructure plan that the new government promises to carry out particularly in the north of the country is expected to generate employment and to attract both private national and foreign investment, so becoming a renewed source of new project finance operations. “Credit is now cheap; the country needs to be filled with infrastructure works” is one of the most repeated phrases these days by the president-elect, who also mentioned the need to reestablish a reliable Telecommunications framework, with competition and clear rules to lure new investments. Representatives of the Chilean and Brazilian business communities anticipated a greening of bilateral business, which anticipates the arrival of a renewed wave of investments in the country. Uruguayans also celebrate. The European Union said this week that it hopes this new Argentina will give a new impetus to stalled talks.
Another priority of the government will be to regain energy self-sufficiency, which will definitely create opportunities in the oil, gas and electricity areas. The appointment as Energy Secretary of Mr. Juan José Aranguren, former chairman of Shell’s subsidiary in Argentina, is seen as a 180-degree turn.
On the financial front, everyone expects a stay by foreign holdout creditors (no more referred as vultures / buitres & further insults, but as from now on to be simply called lawful unpaid creditors with final court pronouncements in their favor), in order to give time to the new government to recover short-term external credit and thus improve its position to negotiate and come to an end with default in 2016.
On the social front, Mr. Macri and his Vice-president-elect, Gabriela Michetti, have both emphasized that their preference for economic freedom and openness to the world will not jeopardize their “Zero Poverty” plan, thus reinforcing their commitment to listen and protect to the most vulnerable social sectors in the very first place.
We are therefore very hopeful and expectant about what promises to be a change for much better period characterized by transparency, checks and balances, freedom of speech, the end of illogical fears, respect to democracy institutions and a serious return to the Rule of Law.
Kirchnerism believed it would rule indefinitely, but on November 22nd the Argentinean people reminded it that democracy means alternation and that there is no such thing as automatic renewal of the presidential office.
Argentina has much more to offer to the World and it will hopefully be another country as of December 10th.