Argentina Peso Collapses 30% To Record Low After Election Shock

Helmholtz Watson

Argentine President Mauricio Macri on Wednesday unveiled a package of welfare subsidies and tax cuts for lower-income workers

The announcement failed to halt the peso currency’s collapse.

Macri’s announcement marked a major climbdown in his IMF-backed efforts to balance Argentina’s budget, came after his leftist rival Alberto Fernandez romped to a landslide victory in Sunday’s primary election by drawing on popular anger at painful austerity measures.

However, investors appeared unconvinced on Wednesday that Macri’s late change of direction could prevent the return of the left to power in Latin America’s third-largest economy.

The peso closed 7.1% weaker on Wednesday to reach 60.2 per U.S. dollar, having lost a quarter of its value so far this week in a market meltdown unseen in Argentina since the country’s 2001 debt default.

Argentina’s Merval stock index has fallen a staggering 34.47% in three days.

Macri promised on Wednesday he would raise the minimum wage, temporarily freeze gasoline prices and increase the income tax bracket floor by 20%.

The new measures, which would cost about $678 million (£562.2 million), would allow a tax cut for two million workers worth some 2,000 pesos ($33) per month per person, the government said.

“The measures I take and that I am going to share with you now are because I listened to you,” Macri said in a video statement.

It was a far cry from the start of his presidency in 2015 when Macri slashed public subsidies in an effort to right the economy after campaigning against the free-spending ways of his leftist predecessor Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is now running as the vice-presidential candidate for the opposition.

Macri, a member of one of Argentina’s wealthiest families, had promised voters to kick-start the commodities-rich economy via a liberalisation wave but four years later inflation is at 55% and the country is in recession.

In the eyes of many Argentines, Wednesday’s announcement was too little, too late.

Brenda Scala, 25, said the 2,000-peso estimated savings through Macri’s new cuts would barely cover the cost of an electricity bill.

“It’s almost nothing. The truth is people are struggling to get to the end of the month. And the gas price freeze – it took four years? Two thousand pesos is not enough to win votes,” Scala said.