December 10, 2013
Council of the americasFriday, August 23, 2013
Scioli calls for soft landing in 2015
Post-primary politics and Argentina’s “energy challenge” (in the words of YPF CEO Miguel Galuccio) vied for the limelight at the annual Council of the Americas symposium yesterday.
Americas Society President Susan Segal and Argentine Chamber of Commerce (CAC) Vice-President Eduardo Eurnekian had drummed together a dozen speakers distributed over three sessions and each session had its clear star among various heavyweights — Galuccio in the first, Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli in the middle and Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa as the closing speaker more than six hours after the symposium began.
Recent primary victor Massa seemed far more dynamic than a subdued and mumbling Scioli (who at times seemed almost like his television parody) but between the lines the Buenos Aires governor had as much to say as the up-and-coming politician.
“I have a province to govern,” said Scioli as if to explain almost everything and to come across as the one left holding the baby (with his talk preceded by a four-minute video laden with statistics to underline just how big a baby Buenos Aires province is).
Eyebrows were raised (and various reporters started scribbling furiously) when towards the end of his 25-minute speech Scioli stressed the importance of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s “government ending in the best way possible,” thus seemingly spelling out the end of Kirchnerism. Scioli posed as the man in the middle offering continuity with his insistent moderation: “Not everything is right or wrong.”
But Massa was more inclined to see what was wrong than right. His starting-point sought to be even-handed: “Argentina is not in crisis yet neither is it growing” but he was soon waxing forth on the “lost opportunities” of a “stagnant” Argentina. Massa came close to quoting Benjamin Disraeli’s “lies, damned lies and statistics” when he described with what scant credibility Argentina’s official data was viewed by the outside world. Thus falling out of touch with the rest of the planet carried a heavy price — the cure to all problems (whether currency restrictions, the balance of payments or faltering growth) was investment and this could only come with confidence and clear rules. All society’s needs — whether education, health or income distribution — depended on the creation of wealth, he maintained.
Massa argued against “pendular logic” and said that the most common political sin was an insistence on looking back but perhaps his economic vision might be guilty of both in the form of returning to the 1990s.
After introductory comments by Segal and Eurnekian, BA City Mayor Mauricio Macri was one of the few main speakers to stay within time limits, stressing the importance of education for the future. The mayor was followed by the inaugural speaker Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who congratulated Argentina on legalizing gay marriage and related her experiences of how nothing sparks more diversity than the topic of diversity. Microsoft’s Latin America Education Director Alberto Bustamante and Conectar Igualdad director Silvina Gvirtz then formed a panel (moderated by Rubén Rodríguez) on tomorrow’s technology and schools — Massa also picked up this theme, pointing out how schools were now completely on the fringe of the technological revolution.
The symposium stayed on schedule until Industry Minister Débora Giorgi’s 31-minute rundown, doubling the 15-minute time limit. She spoke of Argentina’s best growth in 100 years, growing 30 percent (industry 21 percent) even since the 2008 crisis with unemployment falling from 8.5 to 7.2 percent in that period (lower than the United States). She also praised import substitution as helping PyME small and medium-sized firms and stressed how the ancillary industries to mining and agriculture (farm machinery) were increasingly local. A Latin American software leader, Argentina’s technology (and biotechnology) were well above regional standards.
Following Galuccio (see page four) and Governors Scioli, Jorge Capitanich (Chaco) and Antonio Bonfatti (Santa Fe) — also page four — three of the four main standard-bearers in the recent Buenos Aires province primaries then stepped forward (with Scioli presumably speaking for the ruling Victory Front’s Martín Insaurralde) — dissident Peronist Francisco de Narváez, ex-Radical Margarita Stolbizer of the Progressive Civic and Social Front and Massa.
De Narváez whipped off his 10 points for social consensus — 1) national unity, 2) basic civil and social rights (including housing), 3) the war on drugs, 4) institutional quality (ending emergency legislation), 5) sustainable development, 6) population control (referring to immigration), 7) linking education, science and technology to the working world, 8) infrastructure, 9) “green Argentina” and 10) reinsertion in the region and world.
Stolbizer also spoke of becoming part of the “global agenda” with a major role to play in food security — for that new alliances were needed. She deplored that in relative terms Argentina had not advanced from the 1970s while the rest of Latin America had grown fivefold. After 30 years of “imperfect democracy” more federalism and equality and less inflation were still owed. Repeating to herself the frequent question as to whether the opposition could govern, she said that governability was not about staying in power but about looking after everybody else.