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Macri basks in post-G20 glow yet warns tough times are far from over

President uses interviews to tell world Argentina is on right path.

Saturday 8 December, 2018
President Mauricio Macri smiles during an interview with the Associated Press on Monday.
President Mauricio Macri smiles during an interview with the Associated Press on Monday. Foto:AP/ RICARDO MAZALAN

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President Mauricio Macri was this week celebrating the successful hosting of the G20 Leaders Summit – but in a series of interviews with international media outlets on Monday he warned that there were tough times ahead as Argentina confronts economic crisis.

President Macri spoke to the Associated Press and Bloomberg in two separate interviews, during which he expressed pride over how his government had organised a secure, successful gathering of the leaders of the world’s largest economic powers.

He told the outlets that the economy is on the right path after the crisis that wracked the country earlier this year.

“Argentina is in a much stronger situation than it was 12 months ago,” Macri told Bloomberg in a televised interview shared on the financial outlet’s website.

“We have cut significantly our deficit, next year we are going to balance the primary budget, and we already have financed all our needs through the IMF programme so that makes a big, big difference,” he added.

DEPRECIATION ‘DISASTER’

Earlier this year, the Macri administration obtained a record US$56-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The president said Argentina has a long way to go in dealing with its economic crisis following the sharp depreciation of the peso earlier this year. He described that as a “disaster” to AP.

The depreciation has hit citizens hard, with Argentines losing purchasing power to a soaring inflation rate of around 45 percent, one of the world’s worst.

The economic turmoil has fuelled big protests, but Macri insisted that Argentina is now on stronger footing following the IMF loan, citing the support from world leaders at the G20 meeting.

“Argentines decided to make a change for their future. I know it’s tough right now. For many, it’s tougher than they imagined it would be, but many things happened that were out of our reach,” Macri told AP.

“My strategy is bringing back the economy to growth,” the presdient said in his interview with Bloomberg. “This is the only way. This G20 helped a lot because every leader that visited us for the G20 and for the 17 bilateral meetings we had, they all agreed we are doing the right reforms.”

The president defended the austerity measures his administration had introduced in a bid to deliver a “zero deficit” next year.

“We have to stop spending more than we have,” Macri said. “Naturally, this will lead to lower inflation, which will start to go down in November and December. And we’re working so that like 98 percent of all other countries in the world, we can reach a single-digit as soon as possible.”

He refused to predict what inflation would be next year. “We no longer make forecasts because the world is changing so much. Perhaps one of our biggest mistakes was to make forecasts,” he said to AP.

“Will the inflation be lower? Yes. Will the economy grow again? Yes — slowly. We’ll do everything possible so that it’s as soon as possible, but I don’t want to make any predictions.”

SUCCESS ON THE SIDELINES

Macri said Argentina struck about US$8 billion in investment deals with other nations on the sidelines of the G20 summit — most focused on energy, mining and infrastructure.

“There’s no doubt that the world wants to participate and be associated with Argentina,” Macri told AP. “We’ve never had this sort of attention.”

The president was also quizzed about his emotions over the G20 summit. During an event at the Teatro Colón, as artists began to chant “Argentina” on stage at the end of the performance, Macri could not hold back the tears. “I broke down,” he said. “It was impossible not to.”

“I saw [German Chancellor] Angela [Merkel] and she was enthralled, and so was [China’s] Xi [Jingping] and [US President] Donald [Trump],” he added. “Donald even asked me why it had been so short. He wanted it to keep going.”

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