Macri's challenge: Restore Argentina's long-lost economic power
By Hugh Bronstein
BUENOS AIRES Dec 10 (Reuters) - Mauricio Macri takes over as president of Argentina on Thursday, promising to harness its vast natural resources and jettison populist policies to revive an economy that has for decades fallen short of its potential.
If he gets it right, investment could stream into the country, given its Pampas grains belt, promising technology sector, highly educated work force and some of the world's juiciest shale oil deposits.
Outgoing leader Cristina Fernandez is from the populist tradition of Juan Domingo Peron, and his iconic wife Evita, who expanded the reach of the state in the 1940s.
During her eight years in power Fernandez ring-fenced Argentina with protectionist trade policies meant to bolster local industry. She increased welfare spending at a time when millions of Argentines needed help climbing out of poverty after a devastating 2002 economic crisis.
Aided by high world grains prices, her first years in power saw strong economic growth. But the end of the commodities boom combined with heavy government spending and currency controls to hit growth and send inflation soaring to well above 20 percent.
Macri, a conservative businessman and mayor of Buenos Aires, won the presidential election last month by pledging to ease trade and currency controls and give the free market a chance.
"The only way to fight poverty is to create more jobs," he said, emphasizing the bigger role the private sector is to play.
The enmity between Fernandez and Macri has risen to the point where Fernandez and her allies say they would not attend Macri's inauguration. Continuación...