Business leaders see Massa as a move toward certainty

They believe his candidacy creates a “more predictable” electoral scenario

Ruling coalition Union por la Patria’s (UxP) last minute call to oust Ambassador to Brazil Daniel Scioli and Interior Minister Eduardo “Wado” de Pedro as presidential candidates and stand behind Economy Minister Sergio Massa was well received by business leaders, both from big business chambers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The private sector now sees the ruling party as more competitive, although they still fear libertarian candidate Javier Milei and are uncertain about who may win the primaries of the opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio (JxC), where Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta and Patricia Bullrich compete to lead the ticket.

Among the main business chambers —including the so-called Group of the Six (G6)— the “biggest surprise” in the overall definition of candidates took place within the ruling party. 

“Choosing Massa instead of Wado de Pedro brings greater predictability to the future in terms of rational goals,” said a G6 businessman who asked for anonymity. 

The same source added that “Massa is much more pro-market, pro-investments, pro-business, and against crazy moves like supporting Venezuela or Nicaragua, so he will imprint a greater rationality to the former Frente de Todos, unlike a pure Kirchnerista like [De Pedro] would have.” 

For this reason, sources within the financial establishment believe that the ruling party’s ticket will now be “undoubtedly much more competitive.”  

Likewise, industrial leader José Urtubey talked to Ámbito about the definition of candidates:

 “All the selected candidates have strong backgrounds, at least in the case of UxP and JxC. I think it’s good that they didn’t choose the extremes, because Argentina needs consensus, that’s the way to overcome the huge macro-economic challenges.” 

Regarding Massa’s candidacy, Urtubey added: “I thought it was a good decision because it’s a way to summarize the road map ahead.” 

The first chamber that will meet the top Peronist presidential candidate is the Chamber of Construction (Camarco), which is having its annual convention next Tuesday at La Rural, and they had already invited Massa in his capacity as economy minister. 

Meanwhile, Daniel Rosato, an industrial SMEs leader, said the ruling party’s choice is “wise.” 

“This time of economic crisis needs unity and consensus within the government. And it’s also logical that Massa’s candidacy would synthesize that, he has been managing things both locally and internationally at a time when we need foreign investments,” he added.  

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Outside of Massa, Bullrich, and Larreta, the business community rejects the figure of Milei. 

“I think his proposals are inconvenient, especially with the issue of dollarization,” said Urtubey. A G6 source was even harsher: “He is a madman who speaks incoherently, no one knows exactly what he is going to do or who is on the team behind him”. 

In public, business chambers chose not to make any statement. For example, a high source within the Argentina Industrial Union (UIA), said: “The UIA does not comment on candidates, we do so on government plans”. In that same tone, Alfredo González, head of the Argentine Confederation of Mid-size Companies (CAME), said to Ámbito: “We don’t comment at the stage of party definitions. After the primaries, we will invite the candidates to hear their plans”. Without mentioning any candidate in particular, González said that the “main debt” politics has with SMEs is “not promoting consensus and dialogue” between all sectors to implement an economic plan.

All business leaders consulted by this newspaper believe the economy during the elections will be “difficult,” and tied to the results of the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

“The debt forces candidates to be clear about how they are going to pay it without affecting the production sector,” said Gonzalez. 

Meanwhile, Urtubey said: “Until August, the key of the economy will be whether there is an agreement with the IMF to re-boost bank reserves. And after the primaries, once the tickets have been defined, I aspire to a programmatic agreement between different sectors on the direction Argentina is going. There is positive news, such as the end of the drought and the [Néstor Kirchner ] gas pipeline, but the macro-economic challenges are very big.”

Business leaders also believe Massa will have a hard time keeping the dual role of economy minister and presidential candidate. 

“I think it is convenient for him to remain in office until the IMF chapter is resolved, afterwards I imagine the campaign dynamics itself will require some change,” said Urtubey. 

In the same vein, CAME’s González commented: “I imagine he will not be able to because of time management, and it wouldn’t be consistent, but it’s not all about the names, he has a staff that he could leave in charge”. A G6 source said: “He should leave someone he trusts in charge, like maybe Marco Lavagna.” Rosato, an SME leader, added: “He has qualified people he could delegate to, like Guillermo Michel.”   

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