Executives applaud Argentina reforms but mostly wait to invest
By Caroline Stauffer and Nicolás Misculin
BUENOS AIRES, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Executives applauded the opening of Argentina's economy at a major business forum in Buenos Aires this week but many said they are looking for improved infrastructure, more flexible labor laws and other reforms before committing investments.
President Mauricio Macri's government ended a decade-long debt dispute, curbed spending and lifted capital controls in its first ten months in power in an effort to attract investment needed to restore economic growth.
Macri's government says it has commitments for $30 billion in investments, including a pledge for $1 billion over four years from Coca-Cola Co made in January, though local consultancy Abeceb says at least $130 billion per year are needed.
BP CEO Bob Dudley called the government's forum, which attracted nearly 2,000 executives from dozens of countries, an initial step in building the confidence businesses would need to invest in Argentina.
"Two things are needed: one, scale, more rigs, more roads and infrastructure ... and two, labor flexibility," Dudley said in an interview, explaining both changes would bring down costs and in turn create more jobs and growth.
Argentina's oil sector, blessed with one of the world's largest shale reserves, faces one of the strongest unions in a country known for strict labor laws and workers' groups with significant political power.
Cesare Trevisani, vice president of Italy's Trevi Group , illustrated his concerns over labor issues with an example: one of the group's companies tried in 2012 to use a larger drill to improve efficiency, but workers resisted the change.
"This shows there is a cultural issue, to maintain the level of work without thinking of economic efficiency," said Trevisani. Continuación...