Argentine president-elect taps ex-central banker as finance minister

BUENOS AIRES, (Reuters) – Argentine President-elect Mauricio Macri named former JP Morgan executive and ex-central bank chief Alfonso Prat-Gay his finance minister yesterday in a sign that he will move quickly to restore the bank’s autonomy and free up the economy.

Macri, who won Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday, named several former businessmen who are deeply critical of outgoing President Cristina Fernandez’s interventionist policies to key Cabinet positions.

Former Shell Argentina executive Juan Jose Aranguren will be energy minister and the former Buenos Aires city bank chief Federico Sturzenegger will be central bank head if Alejandro Vanoli steps down, future Cabinet chief Marcos Pena told a news conference.

Macri, who leads the center-right “Let’s Change” alliance, has vowed to end more than a decade of free-spending leftist populism and lift protectionist trade and currency controls that have hobbled growth in Latin America’s third largest economy.

But he faces huge challenges. The central bank is running low on dollars, the peso currency is overvalued, inflation is in double digits and the fiscal deficit is widening sharply.

“The economy we will inherit is not in a good shape,” Prat-Gay said earlier on Wednesday, adding that the central bank had acted on the president’s orders in recent years instead of maintaining independence.

Prat-Gay, who was global head of foreign-exchange research at JP Morgan in the late 1990s before leading Argentina’s central bank between 2002 and 2004, said Macri’s government was committed to seeing capital controls lifted.

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