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ARGENTINA | 17-01-2024 09:58

Argentina's 'anarcho-capitalist' president descends on Davos

President Javier Milei will address the global elite in Davos on Wednesday

Argentina's self-styled "anarcho-capitalist" leader, Javier Milei, will address the global elite in Davos on Wednesday as the eccentric libertarian seeks to restore confidence in his country's economy in his first trip abroad as president.

Milei will take the spotlight at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine resort after launching a series of drastic reforms in inflation-hit Argentina following his shock election victory last month.

The 53-year-old Argentine leader gave a brief preview of his speech on Tuesday during his flight to Europe on a commercial plane, which he took as part of his image of austerity. 

"I come to plant the seeds of freedom in a forum that is contaminated by the socialist agenda 2030, which will only bring misery to the world," he said from the plane in a video posted by Argentine news outlet Infobae. 

He did not elaborate but many on the far-right believe the United Nations' 2030 agenda for sustainable development is an anti-poverty scheme that aims to curb individual liberties. 

Milei, who has drawn comparisons to former US president Donald Trump, said he would tell Davos that "freedom is the key to prosperity".

His views on some issues might clash with those defended at the WEF. He denies, for example, that humans are responsible for climate change. 

But the ultra-liberal economist said he had received more than 60 requests for face-to-face meetings in Davos. 

"I can't physically respond to such demand," Milei said. 

But he has pencilled in a meeting with International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva. 

Argentina owes $44 billion to the IMF, which has welcomed Milei's decision to eliminate price controls on some goods that were introduced by the previous government.

The aim of his meeting is to "continue to make it very clear our conviction to change course". 

Georgieva said at a Bloomberg event in Davos on Tuesday that the Argentine government was making progress as it was moving "very aggressively" to address the country's "shortcomings".

'There's no money'

Milei travelled to Switzerland with four members of his government including foreign and economy ministers, plus his sister and close confidant, Karina, who is secretary general of the presidency.

At the airport, he took selfies with a group of people holding Argentina flags who cheered his arrival, according to videos he retweeted on X (formerly Twitter).

As an outsider candidate with an ageing rock star look, Milei rode a wave of anger over decades of economic decline to win the December election.

Under the punchline "there's no money", Milei vowed to drastically cut spending in Argentina, where inflation exceeded 200 percent last year.

He has since devalued the peso by more than 50 percent, cut state subsidies of fuel and transport and reduced the number of ministries by half.

Alejandro Frankel, an international politics professor at the San Martin National University in Argentina, said Milei will seek to "gain the trust of the international economic establishment" in Davos.

"He's not a figure that inspires trust," Frankel told AFP. "He is trying to show himself as someone who can be trusted and present his economic programme as friendly to global investments."

-TIMES/AFP

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by Laurent Thomet/AFP

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