- Argentina’s reformer president Mauricio Macri chose a gradualist approach to sorting out the economic mess left by his Peronist predecessor
- His calculations that Argentina could return to growth quickly by regaining the financial markets’ trust and attracting investment failed to work
- Mr. Macri’s bid for reelection hangs under a cloud of IMF-mandated austerity, but the opposition is held hostage by his unelectable predecessor
When Mauricio Macri was elected Argentina’s president a little more than three years ago, his victory was met with enthusiasm both in and outside the country. It had become apparent that the previous Peronist government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was driving the country toward economic and geopolitical disaster. Its public finances were in shambles, with fixed capital and foreign exchange controls. The international capital market was closed to Argentines and rumors of vast corruption filled the pages of the nation’s newspapers. The national statistical institute was forbidden from publishing official data: only Ms. Kirchner’s control over the nation’s money-printing presses kept the merry-go-round going.
Mr. Macri started with a weak hand: he eked out a narrow electoral victory and his political coalition, Cambiemos, did not have a majority in the Congress nor political control of most of the country’s provinces. Nonetheless, a predominant view was that the new president was reorienting the country in the right direction and that everything would work out eventually. Indeed, the leader accumulated much goodwill during the first months of his administration – around the world and, most importantly, among lenders in the international capital market. His somewhat shaky political position, however, has had consequences.