In the final week of November, Transportation Minister Guillermo Dietrich ventured to the Swamp and the Big Apple (AKA Washington DC and New York) in hopes of bringing back some dollars of his own through the US $33 billion (yes, with a b) infrastructure investment plan prepared by the Macri administration for the next four years. The Transportation Ministry intends on the development and modernization of infrastructure through a national strategy to improve connectivity and productivity of regional economies, not just that of Buenos Aires.
In Washington, Dietrich was able to meet with his US counterpart, Elaine Chao and discussed the challenges that face both the US and Argentine transportation sectors. He also stopped by the Inter-American Development Bank to meet with President Luis Alberto Moreno discussing the different projects that the IDB is supporting in the country. The Transportation Minister acknowledged that this project is the most ambitious of the nation’s history.
Dietrich rounded out his trip in DC meeting with both the US Chamber of Commerce and the Wilson Center to continue his stump speech on the government’s plan to improve infrastructure. The US Chamber of Commerce, a large business organization, launched the US-Argentina Business Council in April this year, as part of renewed efforts to strengthen economic and commercial ties between the two countries. The Wilson Center, a prominent think-tank in Washington, launched its “Argentina Project” in late September. The Wilson Center intends on creating a forum for non-partisan discussions to highlight US-Argentine relations.
In New York, Dietrich met with US and international business firms for one last push before a trip to the United Nations headquarters.
The investment plan details prioritization to the following areas: roads, urban mobility, port and waterways, freight rail, and air transportation. By 2019, the Transportation Ministry expects to double both the amount of national highways and the amount of domestic flight passengers in the country. By 2025, Dietrich’s plan anticipates a US $14 billion investment in metropolitan trains, 15 Metrobuses, and to triple the amount of train passengers in urban settings. With a long game in mind, the plan includes a proposal for freight rail to increase its loads times five and create 3,500 km of new tracks for state-owned Belgrano Cargas y Logísticas by 2035.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, though. US companies, or those who do due diligence, know that the market has been inundated by Chinese investment per the former administration’s fondness of the Asian superpower. China’s strong presence in the country, and in Latin America as a whole, is undeniable, though the Macri administration has touted its efforts to foster further competition which can help take the edge off.
Although enthusiastically lauding the historic improvements made in the last two years, there is a steep climb ahead. Dietrich acknowledged the controversies that clouded public works tenders of yore—that’s to say, that the former Public Works Secretary, former Planning Minister, and the former Transportation Secretary are all in jail for charges relating to the transportation sector (among others). Turning the negative to a positive, Dietrich focused on the transparency efforts that the Ministry of Transportation have taken on since taking office, including a free online portal for procurement. Dietrich added Argentina saved US $3.6 billion in 2016-2017 using targeted transparent and efficient public expenditure management.
This investment plan, alongside the G-20 presidency that Macri assumed recently, presents a big moment for Argentina. With Western investors finally turning their eyes toward Argentina, the Macri administration has the ability to put into action the political aspirations it has wanted to achieve. Macri has been talking up Argentina’s potential throughout his last two years in office and he now has the chance to prove it.