For Argentina to return to the world, means at least three or four issues. From the political side, set aside Iran, Venezuela, Russia, our partners, first. Second, return to normalization on the trade side. And the third one, the most popular, is to solve the holdouts problem. So asking for a new haircut etcetera, etcetera – but at the end of the day, solve this issue. That means to return to the financial markets in a strictly voluntary situation. Then to look for some stabilization program: a one-digit rate of inflation is possible.
The main goal of a [Mauricio] Macri administration is that at the end of that administration, Argentina would gain for the first time an investment grade rating. Excluding Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, the rest of Latin America is investment grade. It’s a very important issue, because it’s really trying to cut in half the interest rate that Argentina eventually will pay to the market.
This is a new world. Regarding the cost of the interest rates and the price of commodities, we are watching a strong dollar, lower commodity prices. But even considering that, we are facing a good world for Argentina in comparison to history and to our disadvantage in the last 10 years, because we were outside of this party for the emerging markets.
Then for organizational changes: trying to balance the fiscal situation, to balance the foreign exchange market, etcetera. I call these organizational issues: trying to get some structural fiscal approach, trying to get some structural fiscal surplus, to return to new statutes of the central bank. Trying to avoid the game as in the 90s that the treasury was printing money. These are organizational reforms, structural reforms.
The fourth pillar is to gain competitiveness: to start to build a new capital market – a domestic capital market. A domestic capital market, pension reforms, it’s a medium term idea. To gain competitiveness it’s not only to devalue the local currency – it’s wrong to look for competitiveness through devaluation. It could be through tax reform, but we are thinking in different periods. If somebody is thinking we will appear on the stage on Dec. 10 with a tax reform, it would be impossible. So we have different stages – short term, medium term, long term.
Short term is normalization of the situation: return to the world on the financial side and trade side, and a stabilization program of the macro issues. That includes the foreign exchange market. That’s included. Import restrictions and so on.
We are not speaking about what will be the tools of the measures for Dec. 10. But the idea is to return to the free market, without restrictions, without capital controls. That’s the main idea.
Argentina didn’t take advantage of the last decade. Now we are facing in the future a new relationship between the dollar and the other currencies. But it is still a good scenario compared to the historical average. It’s worse compared to 2010 and 2011. But Argentina only saw the party, it never participated in the party. So we are really free regarding new debt, investment, new capital inflows.
I’m not referring strictly to liberalization. Without taking into account what’s happening in the rest of the world regarding industry, trade, and so on. You need to take advantage a lot only to normalize. You don’t need the situation to go to having absolutely zero restrictions on tariffs. Only normalization, coming from close to a Venezuelan type situation, is a lot for us. LF
Carlos Melconian is an independent economist and director of M&S Consultores. He is helping the team of Argentine presidential candidate Mauricio Macri. This is an edited transcript of an interview with Katie Llanos-Small.