Argentina appoints economy ‘super minister’ as crisis deepens

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s government on Thursday announced the appointment of a “super minister” for the economy, the third economy minister in less than a month as the country grapples with a high inflation and a plummeting currency.

Sergio Massa, the head of the lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, will lead a new ministry that brings together the current ministries of Economy, Productive Development and Agriculture, the government of President Alberto Fernández has said.

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s government on Thursday announced the appointment of a “super minister” for the economy, the third economy minister in less than a month as the country grapples with a high inflation and a plummeting currency.

Sergio Massa, the head of the lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, will lead a new ministry that brings together the current ministries of Economy, Productive Development and Agriculture, the government of President Alberto Fernández has said.

The appointment comes just weeks after leftist Silvina Batakis was named economy minister after the abrupt departure of more moderate Martín Guzmán, saying he was not getting political support to tackle economic hardship from Argentina.

Batakis remains in government and will head the state-owned bank Banco Nación. The former head of the Ministry of Productive Development, Daniel Scioli, will return to his former post as ambassador to Brazil. Julián Domínguez, head of the Ministry of Agriculture, the other former independent ministry, resigned.

Massa, a lawyer who is an influential leader in the governing coalition, will have to resign from his legislative seat to take up the new cabinet post.

Batakis was sworn in as economy minister on July 4, two days after Guzmán resigned as tensions within the governing alliance flared into the open.

Since then, the already sinking Argentinian peso has depreciated sharply in financial markets amid widespread expectations that a formal devaluation will be almost inevitable at a time when inflation is hovering at an annual over 60%.

Massa, a powerful former mayor who has long been a presidential hopeful and enjoys strong support among voters in the country’s most populous province of Buenos Aires, is seen as a moderate figure with strong political clout for negotiate with various members of the coalition as well as the opposition.

Massa was appointed to Fernández’s cabinet the same day Batakis returned from the United States, where she met with International Monetary Fund officials amid questions about the future of a deal to restructure $44 billion of Argentinian debt.

Left-wing members of the government coalition, including Vice-President Cristina Fernández, have strongly criticized the agreement with the IMF drawn up by Guzmán. They argue that it includes too many concessions that would hamper Argentina’s economic growth.

Massa’s appointment comes after days of speculation over a cabinet reshuffle, as it became increasingly clear that Batakis lacked the support of the split coalition to take on the politically sensitive role.

Early rumors that Massa would join the Cabinet led to a slight rise in the value of the peso on Thursday as well as increases in the prices of government bonds and local equities.

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