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ECONOMY | 23-11-2023 18:29

Luis Caputo leading Javier Milei’s economic transition team, may be minister

Former central bank governor Luis ‘Toto’ Caputo is now leading the economic transition team of President-elect Javier Milei and is now seen as the frontrunner to head the Economy Ministry.

Former central bank governor Luis ‘Toto’ Caputo, who helmed the monetary authority during part of Mauricio Macri’s 2015-2019 government, is now leading the economic transition team of President-elect Javier Milei, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Caputo, 58, appears among the most likely candidates to take over as economy minister after the transition, the people said, requesting not to be identified discussing private plans that are still subject to change. 

The economist, who was also finance secretary under Macri, has offered to help secure international financing to stabilise the country once Milei takes office December 10, one of the people said.

Milei lauded Caputo in a TV interview Wednesday night, saying he has what it takes to be his economic chief but stopping short of confirming him to the post. 

Caputo is “someone in conditions to be in that position, without question,” Milei said during the interview, referring to the post of economy minister. 

On Thursday, the ex-Macri official met with Nicolás Posse, Milei’s future Cabinet chief, at a downtown hotel.

Whoever takes on the position will face enormous challenges ahead, including how to unwind a web of currency controls and price freezes imposed by the outgoing government, while managing an unavoidable peso devaluation without triggering hyperinflation. All of that with a stalled economy, public finances in shambles, and more than 40 percent of the population living in poverty. 

Caputo served as finance chief since the beginning of the Macri administration, when he negotiated a US$16.5-billion deal with holdout bondholders, allowing Argentina to return to international capital markets. He later issued a 100-year bond that the government of Alberto Fernandez swapped after defaulting again in 2020. 

Amid a currency run in 2018, Macri tapped Caputo to take over at the Central Bank, but he only served for a few months before unexpectedly stepping down amid tensions with the International Monetary Fund. 

Pressed during Wednesday’s TV interview, Milei didn’t deny that Caputo would be already participating in meetings between his transition team and IMF staff. 

A spokesperson for the president-elect declined to comment.

Investors will be closely watching who Milei chooses for the complicated economic mission, and whether that person will carry out his more radical campaign promises, including dollarising the economy and shutting down the Central Bank.

Local media outlets on Thursday reported that Caputo had presented Milei with a plan to fix the Leliqs debt issue via external financing and avoid hyperinflation.

Caputo’s appointment to the Economy Ministry would seem to imply that Emilio Ocampo, Milei’s preferred man with a dollarisation plan, will not head the Central Bank. Speculation is rife that the libertarian president-elect may put that proposal on the back-burner while he focuses on fixing the economy.

 

– TIMES/BLOOMBERG/NA
 

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