Argentina's Prat-Gay Unveils Team, Promises Tough Holdout Talks

  • New finance chief introduces aides on first full day in office
  • Outlines objectives to report accurate data, build consensus

Argentina’s newly appointed Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay unveiled his team, vowing to settle a decade-long debt conflict rapidly although not without a fight.

Speaking on his first full day in office following President Mauricio Macri’s swearing-in Thursday, Prat-Gay used a traditional ceremony in which the new minister introduces his aides to outline his objectives and set himself apart from the outgoing government’s operating methods.

Finance Secretary Luis Caputo’s vast experience on Wall Street makes him the ideal candidate to negotiate an accord with holdouts from the 2001 default, Prat-Gay said. Jorge Todesca, the new director of the statistics agency who successfully disputed the outgoing government’s attempt to fine him for publishing an alternative consumer price index, will prioritize making Argentina’s numbers credible again, Prat-Gay said.

“We want the negotiations that are coming to be as quick as possible but also as tough as possible,” said Prat-Gay, who in a sign of the disorganization that surrounds a political transition was incorrectly introduced as Adolfo. “We are always going to tell the truth. Sometimes it’s going to hurt and sometimes it’s going to go against our own interests.”

Blocked Payments

Argentina is in arrears on its debt for a second time since the $95 billion default in 2001. A New York judge blocked payments until the country pays a group of investors who decided to hold out rather than accept restructurings in 2005 and 2010.

Former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government created a new inflation index and modified its gross domestic product index last year after Argentina became the first country to be censured by the International Monetary Fund for reporting inaccurate data. In spite of the changes, private economists say the numbers still differ significantly from their own estimates.

Prat-Gay said he hoped his appointment of Gustavo Marconato, a former lawmaker for former President Nestor Kirchner’s Victory Front alliance, as treasury secretary is a signal of the new government’s desire to build cross-party consensus and break down hostile barriers.

Prat-Gay also introduced Pedro Lacoste as his deputy, describing him as “a brother of all my life” and as instrumental in helping him gain the minister’s office.