Macri’s Argentina: Is This Time Different?

It’s natural to be skeptical, but there are good reasons to bet on Argentina’s transformation, a veteran journalist writes in this special report.

Source: Americas Quarterly
By: RICHARD LAPPER
03.18.2018

BUENOS AIRES – The bets being made on Argentina right now almost defy imagination.

Norwegian, the low-cost European airline, made one of the most striking ones a couple of months ago, announcing a plan to plow in no less than $4.3 billion – yes, that's the right number - into Argentina, creating over the next few years many new international links for Buenos Aires and a string of provincial capitals. Oil and gas companies seem to be falling over themselves in the rush to get involved in the Vaca Muerta shale fields of Patagonia. And fund managers are equally enthusiastic, highlighted last June by the way they snapped up a 100-year bond – effectively lending fresh money to a country that historically has serially defaulted on its debts, and when it did so most notoriously – in 2001 – was responsible for the world's largest-ever sovereign default.

The market's exuberance is leading to some extravagant political claims too. After last October's successful legislative elections, when President Mauricio Macri's Cambiemos (“Let's Change”) coalition won 19 seats, some of the president's supporters are already boasting that Macri is a lock to win re-election next year. Some even declare that Maria Eugenia Vidal, the governor of the province of Buenos Aires, and the country's most popular politician in recent polling, is a shoo-in for the 2023 contest. The most bullish Macri enthusiasts are pointing to the prospect of two decades of stable pro-business government, enough perhaps to get the country back on the long-term road to prosperity that it left about the time of the first world war.

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