Out goes one year...
Whatever the opinions of the year ending tomorrow, they all have one common denominator — it was the first full year of the Mauricio Macri administration. Although even a 366-day leap year perhaps saw Macri implement less of his programme than the last three weeks of 2015 following his inauguration. Once his single-minded quest to end default had been achieved in mid-April, Macri no longer seemed a man on a mission — perhaps waiting for the international capital tapped by the removal of default (or the famous “second half”) to come to his rescue. There was a stop-go nature to his government thereafter — with all the twists and turns over the drastic utility bill increases in an unusually cold winter being absolutely paradigmatic in that respect.
At the start of this year it was universally predicted that a market-friendly government with minorities of a third or less in the two houses of Congress might be economically successful but would be politically challenged. The reality proved to be almost completely the reverse. A hostile Congress proved to be a paper tiger — thus such a seemingly obnoxious piece of legislation as the bill clearing the way for the “vulture” funds to collect up to US$10 billion cleared the Lower House by a 165-87 margin while Macri (the author of 130 mayoral vetoes in his City Hall years) issued a presidential veto just a few times this year. Yet the economic performance of his government was a resounding failure — so much so that Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay at its helm for almost all the year was given his marching orders right at the end. Somehow Macri’s numerous economic team contrived to have the worst of all worlds with negative figures which should have been mutually exclusive — recession, inflation of over 40 percent, a rising fiscal deficit, etc. A government which could be perceived as permitting a flood of imports in a year when imports actually fell.
While politics and the economy are not everything in life, other aspects were also disappointing. Macri’s determination to end isolation was seen as a leading virtue (not without reason) but he had problems keeping up with a changing world — thus bringing three G7 leaders like Matteo Renzi, François Hollande and Barack Obama here within a month of each other was hailed as a triumph last summer but all three have turned into has-beens or lame ducks at this end of the year. On the other hand, such an openess to the world contrasts with an ideological approach to Latin America, joining governments with such dubious democratic credentials as the Brazilian one. Argentina has again a political prisoner (Milagro Sala); education never rose above teacher’s strikes; scientific research suffered severe cuts when it should have been a vanguard; the Supreme Court was restored to full strength but the judicial system remains as dysfunctional as ever — space prevents this list from being completed. Short of highlighting the first ever Davis Cup or Olympic gold medals, the best thing about 2016 could be that it is almost over.