Who's Who in the New Argentina: Macri's Five Key Ministersby
Former JPMorgan executive to spearhead economic transformation
Campaign head Marcos Pena takes over as cabinet chief
President-elect Mauricio Macri is planning to curtail 12 years of left-wing populism in Argentina. He and his cabinet will seek to eliminate currency controls, reach a deal with holdout bondholders and reduce subsidies. He has to do all that with the fiscal deficit at its biggest in three decades, foreign currency reserves at a nine-year low and without a majority in either chamber of congress.
Here a who’s-who of the new cabinet responsible for helping him push through those changes.
Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña
After running Macri’s election campaign, Pena will continue to work as his main adviser and chief spokesman in the new government. Known for his capacity to negotiate, Pena was Macri’s Secretary General for two terms after the incoming president became mayor of Buenos Aires in 2007.
The 37-year-old went to primary school in the U.S., where his father worked for the Inter-American Development Bank, before completing high school in Argentina and studying political science at the Torcuato Di Tella university in Buenos Aires. In 2003, he became the youngest lawmaker for Buenos Aires city’s congress, before going on to become a founding member of Macri’s Pro party.
With economic decisions now taken by a sub-cabinet of six ministries, Peña has turned to two experienced businessmen - Gustavo Lopetegui, the current CEO of LAN Argentina, and Mario Quintana, president of Pegasus Venture Capital - as his cabinet secretaries.
Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay
A former JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive and central bank president, Prat-Gay will spearhead Macri’s economic team as finance minister after the new president reduced the powers of the economy ministry. With the economy teetering on the edge of recession, he has his work cut out for him.
As central bank governor from 2002 to 2004, Prat-Gay halted a surge in inflation following the debt default and currency devaluation and helped spark a recovery from Argentina’s worst recession on record. He cut the inflation rate to 5.3 percent in 2004 from 40 percent at the start of his term in December 2002 and was named Euromoney magazine central bank governor of the year. It wasn’t enough for then President Nestor Kirchner to renew his mandate as Prat-Gay pushed for more autonomy for the central bank.
Energy & Mining Minister Juan Jose Aranguren
The creation of a new energy ministry speaks of the increasing importance of Argentina’s burgeoning oil industry. Aranguren, former CEO of Shell Argentina, will be in charge of attracting investment to the Vaca Muerta formation, the world’s second-largest shale gas deposit and fourth-largest shale oil reservoir. He’ll also head up attempts to unravel the current government’s system of utility bill subsidies that contributed to an estimated budget deficit of 7.2 percent of gross domestic product this year.
An outspoken critic of the current government who frequently sparred with some of its officials, Aranguren has already made clear his different outlook, saying he would prefer to import energy while prices are low rather than maintain subsidies on oil. His double role as mining minister suggests Macri’s government may be more proactive in developing that sector after years of stagnation.
Vice President Gabriela Michetti
Michetti, 50, was Macri’s deputy during his first term as mayor of Buenos Aires between 2007 and 2011. Defeated by Macri’s chosen successor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta in primaries for the mayorship this year, she accepted the incoming president’s offer to be his running mate. In her dual role as president of the Senate Michetti also stands to play a key role in negotiating with the opposition Peronist party, which will have a majority in the chamber.
Deeply religious with close ties to Pope Francis, as a lawmaker and senator Michetti has been known for her policies focused on human rights and social issues. She caused controversy in 2009 when she said she was opposed to legalizing gay marriage.
Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio
Macri’s main economic adviser alongside Prat-Gay during the electoral campaign, as interior minister Frigerio’s main task will be to negotiate with Peronist governors over funding in exchange for concessions by the senators and lawmakers they control in Congress.
He is the grandson of Rogelio Julio Frigerio, who acted as economic adviser to former President Arturo Frondizi and pushed for the development of Argentina’s industries. Frigerio studied economics at the University of Buenos Aires and was elected as a lawmaker in the city’s legislature before being appointed president of the city-run Banco Ciudad by Macri.