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Argentina's Astonishing Turnaround: Milei Ends Deficit in Record Time

Argentina's Astonishing Turnaround: Milei Ends Deficit in Record Time

Feb 23, 2024

Argentina's Astonishing Turnaround: Milei Ends Deficit in Record Time

In a remarkable display of fiscal discipline, Argentina's Javier Milei has steered the nation from a daunting deficit to its first budget surplus in over a decade, all within a mere nine and a half weeks of holding office. The previous administration had left the country with a deficit projected at 5% of GDP, which, in United States terms, equates to a staggering $1.2 trillion annual shortfall. Milei's administration, however, has reported a $400 billion surplus, defying economic expectations.

How was this feat achieved? Milei's strategy was straightforward yet bold: he halved the budgets of numerous government agencies, curtailed crony contracts, and reduced activist funding. To put the scale of these cuts into perspective, slicing the entire Washington budget by 50% would yield a $3 trillion saving, presenting a tangible opportunity to reduce the national debt.

Further bolstering his track record, Milei has already made significant strides in deregulating the economy, removing currency controls—a critical move towards potential dollarization—and cutting rent prices through the elimination of controls, which effectively doubled available rental properties in Buenos Aires overnight.

However, the path to reform is fraught with obstacles. Milei's attempt to privatize corrupt, state-owned enterprises, a move aimed at 'desovietizing' the Argentine economy, has been thwarted by socialist opposition, whose allegiance lies with government unions facing job losses. Similarly, a pivotal labor reform intended to simplify the hiring process was blocked by the high court, mandating it to pass through a Congress that is anticipated to reject it due to union opposition.

Despite these setbacks, the urgency for economic stabilization is paramount, given the nation's ongoing hyperinflation. Milei has made modest progress, with recent monthly inflation reported at 20.6%, a marked improvement over the previous government's record but still leaving the annual inflation rate at a staggering 254%. The inflation remains so high partly due to the necessity of freeing the exchange rate to facilitate the journey towards dollarization, but also because of the lingering effects of excessive money printing by socialist governance.

Looking ahead, Milei's economic reforms will be akin to trench warfare, with his success against inflation being pivotal for maintaining public support. While the recent victory regarding the deficit is significant, it merely halts the economic hemorrhage; the patient—that is, Argentina's economy—remains in critical condition.

The prospect of dollarization looms, potentially involving a transition period for peso assets to be revalued in dollars, but such a process must be executed with precision to avoid political and economic fallout. The worldwide implications are substantial: should Milei succeed in his radical government downsizing, it could set a precedent for other nations, potentially inspiring similar reforms in Latin America and beyond, even casting a shadow on the "spineless goblins" in Washington.


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