Hours after Argentina cut a deal with New York hedge funds to end a nasty, 15-year-old debt dispute, the governmentâ€™s top economic officials took to the podium in Buenos Aires to bask in the moment.
First to speak that February evening was the finance minister, Alfonso Prat-Gay. Heâ€™s an old JPMorgan Chase & Co. guy, a currency strategist. To his left sat Luis Caputo and Santiago Bausili, the two men in charge of the ministryâ€™s debt program. They too are JPMorgan alums, and both would go on to serve stints at Deutsche Bank AG.
To Prat-Gayâ€™s right was the cabinet secretary, Mario Quintana. Heâ€™s an ex-private equity guy, the founder of a firm called Pegasus Venture Capital.
Wall Street is back in favor in the new Argentina, and in a big way. Since winning office in November, President Mauricio Macri, a former businessman himself, has loaded his administration up with traders, financiers, entrepreneurs, economists and corporate executives.
Itâ€™s not the kind of move that a leader would consider right now in, say, the U.S. or Spain or Greece, places where the anti-banker sentiment has reached a fevered pitch in the past few years. But in Argentina â€” where a decade of government intervention in the economy, peppered with a strong ideological bent, has fueled runaway inflation and stagnant growth â€” the population seems more open to the idea. Macri wants to undo those policies as quickly as possible and he wants professionals well schooled in the laws of free markets to do it.
â€œPeople got tired of living in a place where the state stuck its nose in everything,â€ said Miguel Kiguel, who was the countryâ€™s finance undersecretary back in the 1990s. Tops among the â€œabsurdâ€ regulations that were grating on Argentines, he said, were a maze of measures that tightly controlled everyoneâ€™s access to dollars.
At the very least, the hirings are helping Macri win the confidence game, a crucial step to reinserting the country in international capital markets over a decade after it defaulted on $95 billion of bonds and disappeared from investorsâ€™ radar screens.
Kiguel said the group was â€œtechnically skilled, strong,â€ made up of professionals that â€œhave the ability to deliver.â€ Siobhan Morden, the head of Latin America fixed-income strategy at Nomura Securities, called it the best economic team in the