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Argentina Is Not Quite Open for Business, Says Energy Minister

  • Aranguren tells radio station he’s keeping own money abroad
  • Nation is wooing major energy companies to invest in shale

Argentina’s energy minister, a millionaire who spent decades at Royal Dutch Shell Plc, is wooing the world’s biggest oil companies to invest in a nation still recovering from its 2001 default. But he’s happy to keep his own money abroad.

Juan Jose Aranguren told radio station 89.9 on Thursday that rebuilding confidence in the Argentine economy under President Mauricio Macri, who took office in December 2015, is like slowly filling a glass with water.

“It’s a personal decision,” Aranguren said about keeping his money abroad. “Investors don’t invest in a country for charity purposes. They do it seeking returns. This has to do with the confidence that we lost in Argentina.”

Opposition politicians have questioned decisions by some of Macri’s cabinet ministers to keep money outside Argentina while pushing the likes of BlackRock Inc., General Electric Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp. to invest. Scarred by the world’s worst sovereign default in 2001 and subsequent nationalizations and crippling inflation, investors have been slow to return to Argentina, seeking assurances that projects will be guaranteed.

Aranguren has spearheaded efforts to develop Vaca Muerta, a field that holds the world’s second-biggest deposits of shale natural gas. The development is lagging behind U.S. fields and needs billions of dollars to spur more discoveries and build much-need infrastructure to transport the fuel. Chevron Corp., YPF SA and a few other oil companies already operate there.

Aranguren had about 77 million pesos ($3.8 million) outside Argentina in foreign bank accounts as of December 2016, according to the asset declaration form he filed with the nation’s anti-corruption office. He joined Macri’s cabinet in December 2015.

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