August 23, 2019
1. Electoral Panorama
President Mauricio Macri once again contacted his main electoral rival, Frente de Todos candidate Alberto Fernández, following his nomination of Hernán Lacunza as the country’s next Minister of Finance. The call was to alert Fernández of some statements he made which didn’t sit well with capital markets, where he addressed the need to “restructure private debt,” which according to the Frente de Todos candidate, were misinterpreted. After his conversation with the president, Fernández called Córdoba Governor Juan Schiaretti, one of two districts where Macri won in the Simultaneous and mandatory open primaries (PASO). The Córdoba governor confirmed that he would meet with Fernández when he returns to Córdoba during the second stretch of the campaign. With respect to the province of Buenos Aires, the primary gubernatorial candidates met with friendly mayors to boost support in anticipation of October’s elections. Incumbent Governor and pillar of the Juntos por el Cambio Coalition, María Eugenia Vidal, proposed one on one meetings with voters in a bid to reverse the overwhelming defeat suffered in the PASO elections, stating it’s “difficult, not impossible” to defeat Axel Kicillof, the Frente de Todos candidate who defeated Vidal by a margin of 18 points in the primaries. On the other hand, Kicillof asked friendly mayoral candidates to show humility and compromise to further expand the margin of victory from primaries. The National Electoral Chamber, in turn, confirmed that candidates vying for the presidency in October must participate in two debates, one on the 13thof October in Santa Fe, and the other a week later in Buenos Aires.
2. Hernán Lacunza named Minister of Finance
The unfavorable results of the PASO for the Macri administration provided a major shock to financial markets and, as a result, a change in the upper echelons of the administration’s economic decision-makers. In this context, Nicolás Dujovne resigned the Ministry of Finance and President Macri named Hernán Lacunza as his replacement. Lacunza previously served as the Minister of Economy for the province of Buenos Aires, under María Eugenia Vidal, which launched his public career into the national spotlight. The new minister’s economic team brings several key players from his time at the Buenos Aires provincial level, including Sebastián Katz, Milagros Gismondi and Hugo Medina. At the same time, Finance Secretary Rodrigo Pena will continue in his role, as well as Santiago Bausili as Secretary of Finance and Gustavo Lopetegui as Energy Secretary. Following the nomination, the minister received Guillermo Nielsen and Cecilia Todesca, key economic figures in the Frente de Todos party. The meeting hoped to establish a sense of “stability for the common good, over any electoral ambitions.”
El Economista: Hernán Lacunza juró como ministro de Hacienda
3. Mauricio Macri and Alberto Fernández participate in the same event
For the first time since the PASO primaries, President Mauricio Macri and opposition candidate Alberto Fernández were present at the same event – a seminar organized by Grupo Clarín, the country’s largest media holding company. The meeting, “Argentina in a key year: internal and external challenges,” was held at the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires (MALBA). Both candidates held separate interviews. President Macri recognized that the PASO primaries were a significant blow, but also made sure to remind attendees that he also lost by the same margin to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in the 2015 edition of the PASO. In this case, however, no candidates received more than 40% of the total vote and President Macri had participated in a primary with another candidate to determine the best-suited candidate to confront Fernández de Kirchner, and all votes from the losing candidate ended up going to Macri. Also, the president confirmed that a mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will arrive to the country next week. Frente de Todos candidate Alberto Fernández emphasized that defaulting on debt is not an option if he wins, adding his opposition to the pegging of the economy to the U.S. dollar and reiterating his autonomy from his vice presidential pick, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
4. Governors draft joint document condemning Macri’s economic measures
During a meeting of the Federal Investment Council (CFI), a majority of Argentina’s governors drafted a document asking the Macri administration to overturn recent measures freezing gas prices, the VAT and income tax, “to safeguard provincial finances.” Taxes are shared among each province, which in turn implies a considerable drop in their revenue. With this in mind, Salta Governor and Consenso Federal vice presidential candidate Juan Manuel Urtubey stated, “we have come to an agreement on a common document where we request the national government to overturn these measures […] we emphasize the importance of not putting resources on the line that belong to the province.” Later he stated that the governors would resort to the courts if their demands were not addressed. President Macri, in turn, met with Juntos por el Cambio governors for the first time after the PASO primaries. The only attendee was Unión Cívica Radical President and Mendoza Governor Alfredo Cornejo.
BAE Negocios: Gobernadores rechazan medidas de Macri
5. Trade surplus reported in July
According to Argentina’s national statistical agency (INDEC), the trade balance in July logged a USD $951 million surplus, the 11th straight month of surplus. The report also underscored an 8.3% uptick in year/year exports, while imports fell 20.6% in the same timeframe. Imports totaled USD $4.905 billion, while exports added up to USD $5.856 billion. The increase in exports is due primarily to a 20.2% rise in quantity exported, since prices fell 9.9% compared to last May. In the same vein, the drop-in imports over the last few months is also explained by a drop-in imports, both as a result of an decrease in prices of imports and a fall in quantity imported. Argentina’s primary trade partners in July were Brazil, China and the United States. On the other hand, the institution added that the Monthly Economic Activity Estimator (EMAE) accumulated a fall of 2.6% in the first half of 2019.