May 24, 2013
CFK renews fierce criticism against Techint
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner renewed her fierce criticism of steelmaker Techint, Argentina’s largest industrial group, charging that when its Chairman Paolo Rocca complains about labour costs what he wants is lower workers’ salaries.
However, later today the President made public two conciliatory letters — one addressed to her by Rocca and dated on Friday, and her reply to him today — saying that she had initially reacted to a story published by the Clarín “monopoly” media group that had quoted him venting strong criticism of the government.
Earlier yesterday Fernández de Kirchner published a series of tweets on the Twitter microblogging site that mainly repeated criticism she had directed to Rocca on Thursday after he was quoted as saying the economy had “lost its way” since 2008.
“Days ago I read an article in which Rocca said that since 2008 there has been bad management and that Argentina is not competitive... Paolo Rocca, a leading businessman, adds that ‘in 2018 Argentina will be a very different country from the one we have today, we are optimistic,’” the centre-left President said. “When Techint Chairman Paolo Rocca speaks about competitivity he is actually referring to the cost of an industrial worker... the cost of a industrial worker in Argentina is US$24 an hour versus US$12 in Mexico and US$9 in Brazil.”
Fernández de Kirchner also said in her tweets: “It is easy, it seems that I am the obstacle for a higher competitivity on labour costs... but if the country is doing so badly, what will happen in 2016 and 2017? What are they thinking about doing that will make us more competitive?... Maybe they want worker salaries of a third or perhaps a half than those that workers have today?”
However, later in the day her administration published the two letters she exchanged with Rocca.
The Preisdent’s letter said that she believed Rocca’s statement that Techint does not engage in “political operations” as well as with his assertion that the story — that carried no byline in the daily Clarín — had been written “in his own way” by a reporter who had no access to the meeting and wrote it on the basis of his interpretation of the words of one of the 15 businessmen who attended the meeting. Rocca said no journalists were allowed in the talk he gave at a school of engineering on Monday.
Fernández de Kirchner said in her letter that she had reacted to the story published on Wednesday by Clarín and according to which Rocca had told the business meeting: “Argentina has great potential, but is very badly managed. Since 2008 the government has lost its course. It doesn’t know where it is going. Competitivity has started to decline.”
Rocca listed eight notes he used at the meeting: that since 1998 the Argentine industry has grown at a rate above that of any regional country, that productivity also grew above the rate of other countries, that the local industry/GDP ratio is higher than in Mexico or Brazil, that Argentina’s exporting capacity has grown and that its openness to the world has doubled since 1998, and that “since the 2008 global crisis and despite the Argentine industry having managed to maintain a growth rate above that of Brazil, its competitiviy indicators have been declining.” Rocca also said that “higher labour costs” above the inflation rate coupled with a “high tax pressure” affect industrial exports and that uncertainty over energy supplies and costs “could affect industrial investments”. He added that “the national industry’s long-term view seems to me very positive...” He said that responding to questions at the meeting he vented “concern over the lack of management coordination among different government agencies over the past few months” and “commented” on the high investments Techint is making throughout the country.
He added: “Over this decade the national industry has had a formidable growth, but looking forward it needs to ‘deepen’ its growth...”