Argentina could have its third Economy Minister in one month

Argentina new Economy Minister Silvina Batakis speaks during a news conference at the Economy Ministry, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 11, 2022. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian
Argentina’s new Economy Minister Silvina Batakis speaks during a news conference at the Economy Ministry. Photo: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters

Rumors abound in Argentina, after best-selling daily newspaper Clarín published yesterday that House Speaker Sergio Massa is in line to take over the country’s Economy Ministry, only weeks after Silvina Batakis replaced Martín Guzmán in the same position.

Mr. Massa is a Peronist politician who split Peronism in 2013 amid discontent with the presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, famously defeating her candidates in that year’s midterm elections, and paving the way for the Kirchnerite departure from power in 2015.

Although Mr. Massa is not an economist, throughout the last decade he has amassed large-scale support from local businessmen and has built an economic advisory team of his own, different from that of President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Fernández de Kirchner.

With analysts expecting Argentina to post its worst monthly inflation figures in more than two decades in July and the country struggling to renew its debt maturities and import basic products, the calls for economic changes are growing louder by the minute, and Mr. Massa’s team now looks like the strongest Peronist alternative in this regard.

The last days have shown signs of rapprochement between Mr. Massa and Ms. Kirchner, with allies of the latter such as Greater Buenos Aires mayors and state-employee union leaders saying Mr. Massa would be a good addition to the Executive branch of the government.

After weeks of constant selloff amid a spiraling economic crisis, Argentinian stocks and bonds bounced with the rumors, as investors hope that Mr. Massa might have enough political backing to undertake some tough economic reforms which could range from cutting electricity subsidies to reforming Argentina’s chaotic multiple exchange-rate system.

Banco Galicia, Argentina’s most traded stock, is up by 19 percent this week, erasing losses from the past 4 weeks in Wall Street, while the Argentinian Peso recovered 6 percent of its value today in the free market.

Mr. Massa is reportedly negotiating the conditions of his economic takeover, demanding control over multiple key areas such as Transport, Energy, Tourism, Agriculture, tax collection, and potentially even Argentina’s Central Bank, although the latter is not under the direct control of the Executive branch.

Ms. Batakis could potentially remain as part of Mr. Massa’s team to smooth the transition with the international authorities she met this week in Washington.