Doing futurology and projecting the economy of these two years 2018-2019, we ask ourselves -in balance mode- how it would end Mauricio Macri his first government in the National Executive and how much he could have made in correcting the inherited imbalances. In what areas would be considered successful, in which we will speak of inaction and in which we would have major problems.
Beginning with the good news, we should remember that one of the first measures was the removal of the fixed exchange rate, which made it possible to eliminate the black market (blue dollar) from the usual jargon of Argentinians, enabling the access to purchase foreign currency, both for tourism and for imports. This also allowed the elimination of the bottleneck where industrial production was stuck.
This contributed ending an economic stagnation that lasted all the previous government (2011-2015), in which the economy grew one year to fall the next, according to the political cycle. Between 2017 and 2019 it is expected moderate and stable growth of between 2 and 4 percent with improvements in consumption and investment levels. Here, a fundamental role will play labor reform to reduce the obstacles and excessive costs that companies face today to generate jobs and investment projects.
While they may not meet the goals, they may offer data that shows a low of the inflation from 41% registered in 2016 to a rate close to 15% in 2019. Critics will say that inflation in 2015 was lower than the 41% indicated, but this does not take into account the expansive monetary policy of 2015 that generates a lag effect on the next year. Here we must highlight, in addition, the controversy of the future dollar left by the management of Alejandro Vanoli and on which he is still giving explanations before the Courts of Comodoro Py.
The drop in inflation will allow reducing poverty that reached 31% in 2015, was 28% in 2017 and would be around 25-26% by the end of 2019, a structural level that can only be reduced with savings and investment and continuous growth.
An important aspect, which political cost was not lower, will have been ending the tariff delay, removing subsidies to public services. The energy policy managed by Juan Jose Aranguren will be qualified as successful, in addition, by correcting investment deficit in energy infrastructure.
Finally, Argentina will have come out of isolation thanks to the efforts of the ruling that separates it from Iran and Venezuela and build ties with China and the West, seeking investments, of course, but also strengthening political ties. It will not be considered a minor issue that Argentina has abandoned a long default on its public debt, which allowed it to return to financial markets and, among other things, it has accumulated international reserves to support its weakened local currency.
Where we hardly see significant progress will be on the fiscal front. Although it removes and lowers export with-holdings and a raise of the non-taxable minimum for the income Tax were a significant first step, in terms of taxes the reform that Congress passed does not raise reduce the tax pressure until after 2020.
In terms of public expenditure, although it removes it from subsidies it is already and will have been significant, there are and there will be other increases that show that spending grew at a rate similar to inflation. The decrease in economic subsidies was compensated with an increase in social subsidies.
The public over-employment had minimal corrections that were compensated with other hirings. Holding it up during these four years will transform a current problem into a structural problem.
Mauricio Macri’s commitment throughout his government was to take care of public employment and try to reduce the fiscal deficit via improvements in tax collection. While the government may show some compliance with its fiscal targets (the primary deficit will probably be below 3%), it is also important to note that it will have maintained the financial deficit at a level similar to that inherited. The decreases of the primary deficit will have been compensated by increases in the interest on debt that had gradualism as a cost.
The greatest cost of gradualism is the accumulation of public debt. Argentina will present at the end of 2019 a level of worrying debt and a financial deficit that will need a liquid global macroeconomic context that will hardly be sustained until 2020.
The heterodoxy in politics of disinflation who manages Federico Sturzenegger will leave an arsenal of Lebac that will extend the problem of inflation for longer than necessary. Lowering inflation to a single digit will remain a difficult problem in the next government if orthodox reform is to be avoided.
Finally, the more than 30,000 million dollars that Argentina will have received each year in the form of public debt will feed a foreign exchange delay that will represent one more obstacle for the development of its productive activity. The current account deficit will be an obvious consequence.
Those who expected to see a correction of the inherited macroeconomic imbalances in these four years will see important, but partial progress. But those who expected to observe a structural reform of the economy will have to keep waiting.
Economist for Libertad y Progreso Fundation