The Macri administration cabinet has seen its first major shake-up after the President requested that Alfonso Prat Gay resign as Argentina’s Finance Minister today — a move many in the public feel is akin to firing him from office. According to press reports, the decision is linked to the Government’s goal of splitting the ministry into two separate entities: the ministries of the Treasury and Finance.
The latter will be led by Luis Caputo, who until now was Secretary of Finance within the Ministry of the Economy. While Caputo doesn’t have an especially high profile, he has held office since the beginning of Macri’s tenure as president and took the spotlight when he led the country’s negotiations with the so-called “vulture funds” earlier this year.
That being said, the new Treasury Minister, Nicolás Dujovne, worked with the Macri camp on the campaign trail but is new to the administration. The new minister, who has been put in charge of making sure that state spending becomes more efficient — i.e reducing the fiscal deficit — is actually no stranger to the public eye either.
In fact, there’s a chance more people have heard of Dujovne than Caputo, mostly as a result of him co-hosting one of the country’s most popular political TV programs: Odisea Argentina (Argentine Odyssey), hosted by journalist Carlos Pagni, in addition to his gig as a columnist for La Nación.
In fact, in his last Column entitled “Macri in a more hostile world,” he dissected the government’s economic plan in 2016 and analyzed the landscape for the years to come. He considers that with Donald Trump’s election in the United States, the financial world has become “a bit more hostile” and that Argentina “has been one of the countries that has been punished by investors the most.”
That’s why the “economic program must have concrete goals and a methodical description of how these goals will be reached.” However, he says this hasn’t happened yet because “in some areas, the Government hasn’t exactly decided where it plans on advancing. And in other cases, ideas haven’t been adequately communicated.”
With regard to the Government’s fiscal policy — which he will now lead — Dujovne criticized the lack of information on the subject and argued that outlining medium and long-term goals “would help [answer] the largest macroeconomic question in the country.”
“A responsible law that establishes parameters for medium-term spending (including provinces) — and determines how this fiscal improvement will be distributed — could be negotiated with the opposition and clear up many of the doubts investors have about the country’s fiscal solvency.” This may be the first task he takes on once in office.
Dujovne’s argument that the international financial world is becoming more “hostile” as Donald Trump gets closer to the White House has raised a few eyebrows. Why? Members of Dujovne’s family are directly involved in business handlings with companies the US President-Elect owns.
Dujovne’s father, Berardo, is a founding architect of the firm building the Trump Tower in Punta del Este, in Uruguay. Moreover, his brother-in-law Moises Yellati, is managing partner of YY Development, the firm developing the venture along with Trump’s sons.
Yellati’s partner, Felipe Yaryura, is the Argentine with what many feel is the closest relationship with Trump. He was in his campaign’s headquarters when he won the election and allegedly helped Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra set up the phone call between Macri and Trump days after the latter was elected.
As for the rest of his CV, Dujovne is an economist who has worked extensively in both the public and private sectors. Between 2001 and 2011 he was Banco Galicia’s — one of the country’s largest banks — Chief Economist. He was also a consultant for the World Bank in Buenos Aires and Washington.
As for his career in the public sector, he was then-Deputy Economy Minister Pablo Guidotti’s chief of advisers between 1997 and 1998. He was also member of the Central Bank’s board, representing the economy ministry.