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Argentine Economy Minister Martin Lousteau Resigns

Friday, April 25th 2008 - 21:00 UTC
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Martin Lousteau  resigns Martin Lousteau resigns

Argentine Economy Minister Martin Lousteau resigned four months into President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's administration amid disputes over farm policies and accelerating inflation in South America's second-largest economy

Lousteau, 37, struggled to address questions about the credibility of inflation data and avert a strike by farmers that led to food shortages and the biggest anti-government demonstrations since 2001. His appointment to the economy ministry was one of the few cabinet changes Fernandez made after succeeding her husband, Nestor Kirchner, as president Dec. 10. "Lousteau just never had much influence within the government," Claudio Loser, former director of the Western Hemisphere Department at the International Monetary Fund, said in an interview on the C5N television channel. Lousteau's resignation comes as Argentina's government confronts protests by farmers opposing a new export tax regime announced March 11. A three-week strike by farmers that began last month led to road blockades and shortages of beef and dairy products across the country. Farm leaders said this week that there has been "little progress" in talks ahead of a May 2 deadline to resume protests. Former President Kirchner said last night that farmers opposing a new variable export tax on grains and oilseeds are trying to "freeze" Argentina's economy, which has grown faster than 8.5 percent a year the past five years following the country's default on $95 billion of bonds in 2001. Farmers 'Don't Care' "They want to sell everything abroad because food prices are absolutely expensive," Kirchner said in a speech to Peronist party supporters in Buenos Aires province. "They don't care about the stomachs or pocketbooks of Argentines." Government inflation data has been questioned by opposition leaders, economists and institutions including the International Monetary Fund since Kirchner started replacing personnel at the national statistics institute in January 2007. Kirchner said the moves were made to "improve operations."Critics, including former Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna, called it manipulation. According to the government, Argentine inflation accelerated to 1.1 percent in March from February and to 8.8 percent from the same month a year earlier. Claudio Mauro, an economist at M&S Consultores in Buenos Aires, said April 10 that annual inflation is closer to 22 percent. "We know how much inflation affects income," Lousteau said April 22 in a speech in Buenos Aires. ''The best administration is the one that has the country grow at the highest sustainable rate possible.'' Carlos Fernandez, head of Argentina's tax agency, will replace Lousteau, newspaper La Nacion said, citing government officials it didn't identify by name. Fernandez was named head of the agency after Alberto Abad resigned March 18. (Bloomberg)

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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