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Argentina’s Economy Minister Resigns

Argentina’s Economy MinisterOn July 2, 2022, Martín Guzmán announced his resignation from his position as Argentina’s economy minister, which he held since December 2019, through a seven-page letter posted on his Twitter account. The decision arrived amid conflict in the government concerning the country’s current economic crisis and Argentinian Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner pushing for Guzmán to leave his position. Guzmán alluded to recent disagreements “within the government coalition” as a reason for his departure. Many members of his team have also resigned.

Guzmán’s Career

On December 6, 2019, Argentine President (then-president-elect) Alberto Fernández designated Guzmán as Argentina’s economy minister. At the start of this career, the newly appointed Brown graduate had his first bill approved by the Senate just 11 days after his first day in office. The bill imposed tax increases in specific areas of the middle and upper class while providing tax benefits to the impoverished.

In early August 2020, the Argentine economy minister struck a deal to restructure $65 billion in foreign bonds. Most notably, the former minister engineered a $45 billion debt deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The agreement aims to “promote growth and protect social programs” to tackle Argentina’s economic crisis.

Before resigning, Guzmán planned to head to France to discuss a $2 billion debt deal with the Paris Club of sovereign lenders.

Argentina’s Economic Crisis

Argentina’s economy has been suffering for decades. In July 2022, many Argentine sovereign bonds were worth as low as 20 cents on the dollar — a stark difference from higher rates in October 2020. Inflation in Argentina is staggeringly high, moving toward 70% by the end of 2022. As of July 2022, one United States dollar is worth about 126 Argentine pesos and this exchange rate is still increasing.

An economic disruptor includes truck drivers’ strikes, which have halted delivery of grain, “one of Argentina’s main imports,” to ports. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, the devaluation of the peso and a sizeable foreign debt of more than $323 billion by 2020 have sent Argentina into further economic turmoil.

Alongside these struggles, Argentina’s poverty levels are sharply increasing. Due to the severe inflation, the poverty rate in urban centers stood at 37% in the latter half of 2021 and is expected to increase to 39% after the first six months of 2022. This would equate to 500,000 more impoverished people.

The Economy’s Future

Guzmán’s resignation has raised concerns over the economy’s trajectory, most fearing it will head in an even worse direction. Other concerns regard Guzmán’s IMF deal and whether Argentina can meet these needs without the architect of the deal.

On July 3, 2022, one day after Guzmán’s resignation, President Fernández named Silvina Batakis Argentina’s new economy minister. Batakis previously served as the Secretary of Provinces in the Ministry of the Interior and as economy minister of the Buenos Aires province from 2011 to 2015. This week, she stated her belief in “fiscal balance” and her intention to follow President Fernández’s economic program.

In June 2022, the deal with the IMF that former minister Guzmán crafted underwent its first review. This is a sign that the deal may indeed make progress and ultimately come to fruition. A press release regarding this step stated that the program’s policies “will be critical to support Argentina’s economic recovery.”

There are other solutions and aids to Argentina’s economic crisis besides the appointment of a new economy minister — foreign aid. Amid this instability, at least 48 NGO projects in Argentina aim to improve the lives of the country’s poor. A notable organization is Fundación Integrar (Integrate Foundation). The foundation helps young Buenos Aires and La Pampa citizens living in poverty complete their higher education by providing financial aid and guidance to students. With the help of donations, the foundation has given higher education scholarships to 140 students to date.

In office, Argentina’s new economy minister Batakis will need to address the nation’s high inflation rate and foreign debt along with an increasing poverty rate. Yet, she is not alone in this fight — a deal with the IMF is underway and tens of organizations are serving the country’s poor.

– Sophie Buibas
Photo: Flickr