President Mauricio Macri focused exclusively on getting his administration’s message across during the better part of the afternoon yesterday, speaking to his followers first on Instagram Live and then heading on to the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange for an interview with the head of the institution, Adelmo Gabbi.
The nature of the questions for Macri on Instagram were obviously very different from the ones he was asked by Gabbi, but while both men heavily discussed the most pressing issues of his economic agenda, the president was also able to talk politics with his followers, who seemed to be interested in whether he would run for reelection next year. “I don’t like talking about it,” he told them, “because each day we have before [the] 2019 [elections] is an opportunity to solve one Argentine’s problem. I have said before I am here to support the change and for as long as you decide I am,” said Macri.
Predictably, many were concerned about the economic turbulence that the country is currently experiencing and the recent devaluation’s most tangible effects on the population: the depreciation of the peso against the US dollar and other global currencies, as well as higher-than-expected inflation and the consequent loss of people’s purchasing power.
So, Macri urged Argentines to “get used to” having a floating exchange rate, and encouraging people to “start thinking in pesos, rather than [US] dollars.”
When addressing high inflation rates, the President conceded that he “underestimated” how difficult it would be tackle it.
“I thought it was going to be more simple. There are a lot of people who want to invest [in Argentina], but since over 90 percent of countries around the world don’t have inflation, those who want to come don’t know what to do and that means we are not creating all the jobs we could.”
For 22 minutes, the President took questions that ranged from issues related to his personal life to whether he preferred Shakira or Britney Spears. (In case you’re wondering, he said “Shakira, because she dances really well.”)
He also said he thinks it’s “creative” that people pejoratively use the term “gato” (cat, which in prison lingo refers to the inmates at the lower social stratum of its micro-society), that he is obsessed with Netflix and currently watching Peaky Blinders and Luis Miguel: La Serie (preach, Mac) and that his favorite foods are his mother’s pizzas and milanesas. “I’m not very original,” he laughed.
A perhaps unexpected moment of the interaction took place when Macri was asked about the effects the presidency has on him. “Are you happy?” A user asked. “Many times it is overwhelming,” he responded. “But I have a nice family, good friends, and I receive a lot of affection from the Argentine people, although some are extremely upset because they believe there are other solutions [to the problems Argentina is going through] that have to do more with magic than reality.”
Asked about whether he likes being President, and far from hiding his emotions about it giving some canned answer such as it being the greatest honor of his life, he said “he would get back to that later,” but didn’t.
Once the Instagram Live was over, Macri headed to the Argentine stock exchange to attended the commemoration of its 164th anniversary of the institution’s creation, where he enjoyed a warm welcome from the Stock Exchange’s authorities and was interviewed by its head, Adelmo Gabbi.
He said the people’s faith in his administration remains “intact.”
“We are certain this is the right path, the one we’ve been dreaming of for many years. The bumps on the road are temporary. We don’t care about the short term. The progress on infrastructure and improvement of people’s quality of life are permanent. That’s what we are betting on,” he added.
Besides the ever-recurring economic turbulence and the consequent agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the President addressed issues such as the need to lower the fiscal deficit, as well as the Vaca Muerta region’s potential to produce energy.
“Practically no governor challenges the need to seriously lower the fiscal deficit. Maybe we don’t agree on the short-term measures that need to be taken. It is not true that implementing austerity measures within the means imposing it on Argentines. On the contrary, it liberates Argentina so it can develop,” he began.
Regarding the turbulence, he said: “We don’t deny it. We are in the middle of a storm that affected our ability to seek credit. If we had little before, now we have less. We have to reestablish [the ability to access] credit as soon as possible and the Central Bank (BCRA) is working on it with the IMF’s support, which is extremely important.”
With respect to the agreement with the IMF, he said that “it is good that we are talking about the Fund. This whole thing we’re being told… that we are trying to be sold, about making a deal with the boogeyman, about it being mean [is not true]. The Fund is an institution one can resort to voluntarily. You go because you have a situation where its actors consider that the risk of financing Argentina is larger than what they are willing to take. You can’t order the market around, one has to convince them that Argentina will make the deep changes it needs and that this time it is for real. It is all based on trust and recently being moved up to an emerging market illustrates the world’s trust.”
Regarding Vaca Muerta: “it is more alive than ever, developing. This year it created 30,000 jobs. Next year it will be 50,000 jobs and in five years it will have created half a million. We are set to go back to being gas exporters next summer, we will export gas to Chile and in three or four years we will be exporting half a million barrels of oil. That is US $14 billion. It is a new source of dollars for Argentina.”