April 24, 2014

Rogelio Frigerio, new President of Banco Ciudad

Sunday, December 8, 2013

‘YPF’s nationalization won’t solve Argentina’s energy crisis’

By Federico Poore
Herald Staff

Born: January 7, 1970, Buenos Aires City
Position: Newly elected President of Banco Ciudad
Previous positions: Former City legislator and teacher at numerous universities
Favourite book: Doesn’t have one.
Likes novels and recommends “The man who loved dogs” of Leonardo Padura
Newspapers: Ámbito Financiero, La Nación, Cronista and Clarín
Magazines: Noticias
TV programmes: Doesn’t watch that much TV. Only political shows on Sundays.

The past few weeks have been busy ones for Rogelio Frigerio. After weeks of long nights in which the former head of the Legislature Budget Committee worked to help City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s 2014 Budget gain approval, legislators unanimously approved his nomination as the new head of Banco Ciudad. Frigerio, an economist who strongly supports the pro-development ideas espoused by his grandfather Rogelio Julio Frigerio, welcomed the Herald at his office in the Legislature’s office where he and his advisers were busy wraping up the last details before moving to the bank.

What will be your main goals for your tenure as head of Banco Ciudad?

We have to consolidate an image of Banco Ciudad as an efficient and productive institution. Just because it’s a public bank, it doesn’t mean it has to be inefficient. The next two years will be difficult so we need to increase employment and economic activity.

Have you chosen a team to work with you at the bank?

Some positions are going to be contested since they are currently vacant, while for others I have chosen people I trust. Hernán Lacunza will be the general manager and other economists, such as Luis Rappoport and Pablo Rojo will join me. All of them have expertise and agree with my ideas about the future of Banco Ciudad.

What is your relationship with Juan Carlos Fábrega, the new Central Bank chief?

I’ve known him for a long time and I have a good relationship with him. I met him for the first time when he was leading Banco Nación. He is smart and always tries to have a fluid dialogue with everybody. We will work together, as well as with the head of Banco Provincia, Gustavo Marangoni.

How has the decision to transfer court deposits to Banco Nación affected Banco Ciudad?

Luckily it is not a short-term problem since only the flow of the funds was affected and not the stock. The funds were very important for Banco Ciudad because they allowed us to provide mortgages with the lowest interest rate in the market. We are currently working on new funding in order to replace those deposits but we will continue the fight to gain them back in the courts.

Wouldn’t it help if the salaries of metropolitan police officers were paid at Banco Ciudad rather than Banco Galicia?

The police salaries were always paid at Banco Galicia. Nevertheless, we started to change that and now most of the force is being paid at the City’s bank. We hope that in the next few months all the officers will be paid at Banco Ciudad but we need to create incentives to encourage the police to transfer the funds.

What do you think of the recent Banco Ciudad that has raised controversy by showing a woman’s rear end when it mentions Villa Ortúzar and it associates a brand of beer with the Quilmes district?

It’s a good campaign and, thanks to it, people started talking about Banco Ciudad. The goal was to position the bank in society and we fulfilled that.

What role can Banco Ciudad play to solve the current housing deficit in the City?

The bank is already working with government agencies to solve the problem. Banco Ciudad offers loans for citizens to have their own house and boosting and improving them is one of our goals.

Do you agree that Buenos Aires City lacks appropriate housing programmes?

Housing problems are not exclusively in the City, but throughout the country. More people rent now than in 2001, so there is certainly a problem. Two average salaries are not enough to buy in any neighborhood. We can try to mitigate that but a new economic model is the only real solution.

But the budget alloted for housing programmes at the Housing Institute (IVC) for 2014 was reduced 24 percent...

The government has changed the focus of the housing problem in the city. Now the IVC is not the only agency that works on the issue and other areas were included, including Banco Ciudad. The IVC cannot be used as the only element to analyze the government’s housing programmes.

Subway fares and property taxes have risen more than the opposition inflation index. Will that trend be applied at the federal government if PRO wins in 2015?

Those numbers are not true. Property tax will increase 22 percent next year, below inflation. Regarding the subway, the rate has to be updated because of inflation and the national government’s decision to not give the city any additional funding. Nevertheless, the subway will keep receiving a 50-percent subsidy. We want to change the subsidies structure the national government now has.

The government claims that economists have been wrongly predicting a crisis for two years. Are those economists right now?

I never said there would be a crisis. A crisis has not happened because our country has benefited from international conditions. Still, there is poverty and income distribution has not improved. Argentina has lost a great opportunity over the last decade.

PRO supporters said YPF’s expropriation was a bad decision but now the company has increased its profits and production. Do you regret having said that?

YPF is not producing more, that depends on what numbers you use to compare. Hydrocarbons production of the company is low due to the disinvestment. Macri was the only politician who opposed the nationalization because he though it wouldn’t solve Argentina’s energy crisis and he wasn’t mistaken.

Considering that PRO is a liberal party, do you agree the government must guarantee a media market where everybody can compete rather than maintain Clarín’s dominance?

Something had to be done with the Media Law but what the federal government did is a disaster and probably the next government will have to change it. It was a law created against Clarín. I believe everybody has the right to compete on the market and in freedom of speech but a law has to be analyzed in its context. Now the government has power over most of the media.

Even more than Clarín?

Yes, of course. They have plenty of newspapers, radios and television channels, even more than Clarín or other remaining independent media groups. They don’t have good ratings because nobody wants to hear pro-government political opinions. The government dominates more and more media and the critical ones keep disappearing.

Do you support gay marriage?

Yes, marriage between people of the same sex has to have rights equivalent to those of heterosexual marriage.

And what’s your stand over the current trials on crimes against humanity?

Of course I support them. Almost all the countries carry out trials on crimes against humanity that don’t have statute of limitations. The issue here is if human rights are used with a political purpose.

Do you believe the federal government does that?

In some cases, yes. The government has made important progresses on human rights but it doesn’t own them.


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