Economy Minister Sergio Massa trailed a host of new policy announcements on Thursday, telling US investors in a keynote speech of the plans he hopes will improve Argentina’s troubled economy.
Massa, one of three key leaders in the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, said his economic team were drawing up new policies that would boost construction projects, convert the recipients of social security plans into employed workers, tap international credit lines and introduce a new ‘soy-dollar’ rate for agricultural exporters.
He delivered his remarks at a Council of the Americas summit held in Buenos Aires, which was attended by several of the country’s most important business leaders, US investors and diplomats from both Argentina and the United States.
Returning to a theme he emphasised repeatedly, Massa called for the country’s economic and political leaders to unite for the good of the country, arguing that macroeconomic stability is a result of “a joint work between the State, the rulers, but also with the economic and social actors of Argentina."
The minister said that opposition leaders and government officials should not be “afraid” to work together to draw up policies prioritising development and social inclusion.
"We should not be afraid to sit around a table with the opposition," Massa said, calling for a dialogue with the opposition through Congress to "find agreements on state policies."
"In the next few months there are no elections, the electoral season does not begin until March or April. It would be good to take advantage of this to find agreements or basic consensus for the development of Argentina," declared the minister.
Admitting that the country faced a challenging economic outlook, Massa also trailed a number of upcoming policy announcements across areas such as public-sector employment, moves to strengthen Central Bank reserves and infrastructure opportunities for US investors.
He revealed that, in addition to freezing income across a number of public administration bodies, hiring in state-owned companies will also be halted. The list of companies includes, among others, the Aysa water company and airline Aerolíneas Argentinas, which is currently recruiting pilots through Linkedin.
Massa also said that groups from Asia, Europe and the United States had approached the government with proposals that could boost Central Bank reserves and that he was awaiting further details.
The minister then promised to introduce new regulation to oversee construction projects, with moves to promote tax benefits for private consumption. The idea, he said, would include steps to “whitewash” undeclared funds inside or outside the country that could then be used by developers to start building.
Massa also said that officials at the Economy Ministry are in talks with agroindustry bodies and grain exporters over an improved regime that will tempt producers to liquidate stored soybeans. Such a move would “allow us as a nation state to make the most of the power and wealth generation that the agro-industrial sector has," he added, hinting that producers will be offered a preferential exchange rate.
Measures to boost the mining sector with benefits are also on the cards.
Finally, the minister trailed a new flagship policy that will seek to transform the recipients of social security benefits into formal workers. The government is aiming to move 200,000 beneficiaries into the labour market over the next year and will continue to contribute to their salaries over a worker’s first year of employment, offering tax breaks to employers.
Massa said that in "the construction sector, in agriculture, especially in regional economies, and in the tobacco sector" is where most people do not take on new jobs for fear of losing social security benefits.