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Many hopefuls but one target: inflation

City Mayor Mauricio Macri is seen yesterday at the Industry Day conference in downtown Buenos Aires.

Macri, Massa continue flirtation with private sector as Scioli stands out with criticism

Various presidential hopefuls expressed their concerns yesterday about the impact of the high rate of inflation that the next government will inherit from the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration in 2015 at a business event in Buenos Aires, where some went as far as setting out a timeline to calm down prices over two to four years.

Only ruling Victory Front (FpV) hopeful, BA province Governor Daniel Scioli, stood out for his slightly more hostile tone, criticizing those leaders “who want to govern for the rich” and tell “each sector what it wants to hear.”

Presidential hopefuls Mauricio Macri, Ernesto Sanz, Sergio Massa, Julio Cobos and Hermes Binner again hinted at their market-friendly approaches, speaking at yesterday’s Industry Day event held by the Argentine Confederacy of Medium-sized Business, where they took aim at the government’s alleged mismanagement of the economy while hinting at the possibility of warmer relations with the private sector.

Despite slight differences in the choice of words and the extent to which they were willing to make election promises, the candidates found common ground when they pointed out their main concern in the event they take office — the fight against inflation.

Inflation would take “two to three years” to tackle, said BA City Mayor Macri of the PRO party who followed up his successful speech at the Council of the Americas last week by promising “zero export duties on regional economy products and the elimination of any impediment to exporting.” Macri is a known ally of the farming sector.

Radical (UCR) party chairman Sanz, meanwhile, pointed out a “fiscal surplus, trade surplus and competitive exchange rate” as some of his priorities, as his fellow Broad Front-UNEN pre-candidate Julio Cobos seemed to attempt to appease business leaders by promising tax reforms and less economic obstacles. These were echoed by Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa, who also set a timeline to tackle inflation of three to four years along with Socialist Hermes Binner, also of Broad Front-UNEN, who labelled inflation “the main problem of the economy.”

Big bad inflation

One year out from the presidential election, leaders used the event to shed greater light on their own plans for a future term in office, in what has so far been an ambiguous start to preemptive campaigning.

Sanz is one of a considerable group of Broad Front-UNEN members open to the prospect of an alliance with Macri, the BA City mayor who yesterday said inflation wouldn’t “hit zero (percent) on the first day” of his possible presidency. He blamed the CFK administration’s “bad policy” for an inflation rate that has so far reached 16.7 percent this year, according to official statistics from the INDEC statistics bureau.

In what appeared to be an early election promise, the PRO party leader also indicated that reaching single-digit inflation would form part of his agenda. “Ninety-nine percent of countries have single-digit inflation — and a small digit at that,” he charged. “If we don’t reach it (single-digit inflation), then let’s all go home.” Macri claimed the government’s handling of inflation had been “unforgiveable because it’s the one (administration) that has charged the most taxes in Argentine history.”

Other leaders also went as far hinting at numbered targets for inflation. CFK’s former vice-president, Radical Julio Cobos, hinted at reaching 18-percent inflation in 2015 to then rein it in to single digits in the following years. He said his focus was on strengthening institutions, generating production and jobs, reducing public spending and controlling the printing of cash.

It was much of the same, speech-by speech.

Massa declared the fight against inflation “depended on fiscal, exchange, monetary and investment goals” that would take three to four years to implement.

For his part, Binner said inflation couldn’t be tackled “with quick treatment. It’s going to take time, we don’t have an alternative that is less than three years.” The presidential candidates, most drifting toward the centre-right of the current political spectrum, also seemed united in their criticism of Kirchnerite economic policy.

Standing out

Standing out at yesterday’s event, BA Governor Scioli talked up his business credentials but also criticized his rivals for “telling each sector what it wants to hear.”

“These are the ones who want to govern for a few, for the rich, those who promote fixing duties at zero on soybean and not explaining how they’ll sustain the social security system in Argentina,” he charged.

He promised to set his priorities “between the realistic and the possible” and distanced himself from other candidates by saying he hoped to “ease the cost structure of production to improve competitiveness.”

“I’m the small- and medium-sized business candidate because I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the counter,” he said.

Herald staff with DyN

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