Argentina’s Macri Has a Tough Road Ahead

Now comes the hard part.

Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

Mauricio Macri had a pretty good year. Having settled a sulfurous quarrel over past-due debts with cranky hedge funds, the Argentine president went on to dismantle market-warping energy subsidies, rehabilitate the census bureau, slow inflation, and thwart a Peronist revolt to lead his fledgling Cambiemos political coalition to a major victory in the October midterm elections. Then, just before Christmas, he persuaded Congress to roll back corporate taxes and even tweak old age pensions, the grandmother of Latin American entitlements.

So who’s afraid of 2018? Macri, of course. Political capital is a perishable commodity in Latin America these days — all the more in Argentina, where economic recovery has been tepid, politics toxic, and expectations fevered. And while Macri has attracted investors with important policy measures — leading both Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings to upgrade Argentina’s credit standing — his compatriots are less enchanted. Macri’s approval ratings tumbled 5 percentage points in December to a personal low of 49 percent, down from 71 percent after his election, while his disapproval rating surged to a record 48 percent.

That’s a troubling sign for the former Buenos Aires mayor and businessman, who campaigned on remaking his country through efficiency, transparency and the charms of a market whisperer.