365 days later
Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the Mauricio Macri presidency and the contrast with this time last year are already striking — instead of a triumphant inauguration crowning his upset electoral victory less than three weeks previously, the occasion is being buried within an extra-long weekend in the hope of being replaced by the negative achievement of a “Christmas in peace” and expectations of a happier new year. In the closest thing to an official assessment of this first year, at last weekend’s Chapadmalal spiritual retreat Macri implicitly gave himself a mark of eight out of 10 when gauging the ministerial records — this newspaper would be inclined to give him exactly half that grading (quite simply the total frustration of the much-vaunted “second half” should limit him to five at most).
That this has been a harshly recessive year should not necessarily be held against Macri — ruling in cycles of boom or depression is often a matter of luck which does not always reflect the government. What should be held against him is the inability to launch any clear policy offering a road map for the future — beyond the hasty settlement with vulture fund holdouts early this year re-opening Argentina to global capital markets and thus prolonging deficit financing (which will almost inevitably lead to a major debt crisis but probably not in this presidential term, given the current low levels of indebtedment). Regardless of whether stimulus or state reform or foreign investment are the preferred roads, all are conspicuous by their absence. Nor is there much sign of the institutional improvement which might compensate for economic frustration beyond a flawed recovery of INDEC statistics bureau. Quite apart from the current controversy over the clear miscarriage of justice in the Milagro Sala case, there has been zero modernization of a hopelessly archaic and problematic judicial system throughout this year. With perhaps two or three exceptions these criticisms could be multiplied across Macri’s 20 ministries (especially serious blunders in the Energy and Foreign Ministries, a lack of professionalism in Security and Environment) although in certain areas —e.g. education and health — it must be admitted that a year is too little time to measure genuine progress.
On this basis Macri would seem to be heading for two or three out of 10 so why are we giving him four? Mostly because governability remains surprisingly intact after such a bad year — there has been a shrewd (and often expensive) handling of Congress, presidential popularity remains high and next year’s midterms are far from a lost cause for the ruling coalition. Last year there were doubts whether Macri was voted in or his predecessors out — there will be no such ambiguity about next year’s results.