Driving in fog, the concern of the business leaders

Businessmen, trade unionists and politicians met at Amcham Summit 2023

“It is very difficult to drive in a fog,” said a leading businessman in a hallway chat during the AmCham Summit 2023, one of the biggest annual events that bring together the most important business people in Argentina. The businessman was referring to the critical economic situation and the uncertainty prevailing in the middle of the election year. 

The same metaphor was used by Facundo Gomez Minujín, president of Amcham and Senior Country Officer of JPMorgan in Argentina, at the opening of the event. 

“Argentina is on the verge of a crisis, navigating in a fog bank. This level of uncertainty is constant and resounding,” warned Gómez Minujin. Minutes before, he had warned that the country will experience recession and inflation this year. 

The sentiment of these coinciding statements was widespread among most of those present. The lack of clarity that still exists regarding the candidates for the presidency, with tough infighting in all the political coalitions, fuels an uneasiness that is based on the fragility of the economy. The shared expectation is that Argentina will suffer a strong devaluation of its currency, but the question remains as to when it will happen: after the change of government on December 10 or earlier, should the government not get the necessary dollars to defend the exchange rate.

Throughout the day, attendees listened to different conversations about key sectors for Argentina’s development and also heard from main politicians who appeared today as possible presidential candidates. Daniel Scioli, current Argentine ambassador to Brazil, and Juan Schiaretti, governor of Córdoba, spoke for the Peronist party. Leaders from Juntos por el Cambio were the two main figures of PRO: Patricia Bullrich and Horacio Rodríguez Larreta. 

Bullrich was the main figure to receive support from those present. True to her confrontational style, Bullrich claimed that due to the situation the country is going through “character and determination are a must.” 

“It is the exact moment for a personality like mine,” she remarked. 

Bullrich also gave her thoughts on what the dollar exchange rate should be. She thinks that the value should be located between the current official exchange rate, which she called a “lie,” and the informal (or blue) dollar. Today, the official exchange rate reached AR$ 228 per dollar and the blue dollar is at AR$ 471, so a value in the middle would leave an exchange rate of around $350.

Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, mayor of Buenos Aires City, did not have the same support from the audience as his partner in the PRO.  While Bullrich was applauded, Larreta was listened to in absolute silence. Two businessmen agreed afterward that Larreta’s tone was vague and “nervous.”

The big absentee of the day was economist Javier Milei, a right-wing candidate for president for La Libertad Avanza. According to sources with knowledge of the matter, the economist received the invitation but decided not to participate in the event. A businessman suggested that due to Milei’s good performance in the polls, the economist’s best strategy would be to lower his profile “and let the others make mistakes.” 

The closing of the event was reserved for Sergio Massa, Argentina’s current economy minister. The official reviewed how the government is facing the lack of reserves, assured that they are still negotiating the modification of the program with the IMF within the framework of the current agreement (he spoke about changes in disbursements and targets), and left a vague political definition regarding his eventual candidacy for the presidency. Massa still has not said publicly whether he will be a candidate or not, although it appears from his definitions that he could think about it if he were the only Frente de Todos candidate.

In a country as obsessed with soccer as Argentina, sports metaphors always have a place. Almost at the end of the event, one of the speakers condensed a claim that could be that of the whole business sector to Argentine politicians. 

“Let’s not be like Paris Saint Germain which has the best player in the world [referring to Lionel Messi] and does not take care of him”, he said. 

In the shadows, Massa was waiting to take the stage.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald