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Argentina Presidential Candidate Bullrich Unveils Economy Chief Ahead of Election

(Bloomberg) -- Patricia Bullrich, Argentina’s probusiness opposition presidential candidate, pledged to restore the country’s ailing economy and stabilize its beleaguered currency as she tries to narrow the gap with frontrunner Javier Milei ahead of the October election.

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In the first campaign event since winning her party’s primary earlier this month, Bullrich said if elected she will lift capital controls and cut taxes to turn around the famously unstable economy.

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She also introduced Carlos Melconian, an experienced celebrity economist who leads a local think tank, as her potential Economy Minister in an attempt to focus her campaign on the issue, which is at the top of voters’ worries with inflation surging past 110%.

Read more: Argentina’s Bullrich Would Remove FX Controls With IMF Help

Bullrich, 67, has mostly laid low since the bittersweet Aug. 13 primary, when she won her primary but overall her coalition scored a second place behind Milei when it had expected a comfortable win. The path to the presidency for Bullrich now doesn’t look simple because she is caught in the middle between Milei, who shares much of her economic agenda, and Economy Minister Sergio Massa of the left wing Peronist ruling coalition.

At Thursday’s event, Bullrich and Melconian made several digs at Milei’s proposals, like dollarizing the Argentine economy, or his lack of congressional support, albeit without naming him. Melconian said an Argentina under Bullrich would “disentangle a spider web” of taxes and currency controls, regain competitiveness in international trade and provide predictability. He also said he wanted to usher workers from the informal economy into the formal sector while also lowering business costs.

“The only thing that is banned is fantasizing with theories impossible to put in practice,” he said.

Melconian has been working with a team of 70 advisers for the past two years to craft a blueprint for Argentina’s next president, which was now adopted by Bullrich’s campaign. He said the teams have developed “capitalist, Western, federalist, progressive and doable” proposals for Argentina’s fiscal, monetary and currency policies and sectors such as energy, transport, infrastructure and trade.

Given the election will be a three-way race, Bullrich’s best hope is to be one of the two most voted candidates to make a runoff scheduled for Nov. 19. She first needs to guarantee the votes of more than a third of her party who favored centrist Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta in the bitter primary fight. She also needs to convince voters that a career politician would be a more reliable option than the outsider Milei at a time Argentines are angry with the political establishment for the deteriorating standards of living.

Read more: Argentina Must Avoid ‘Hot Money’ Pitfall, Top Economist Says

Bullrich, who was security minister under former President Mauricio Macri between 2015 and 2019, is at the same time focusing her strategy on a “tough on crime” message given insecurity is also a top concern of voters. In her speech, she mentioned the death of a 42-year-old engineer in Buenos Aires, who was stabbed on Wednesday night to steal his mobile phone.

“Change is not an abstract idea, it’s a necessity. To stop the chaos of Argentina, we need order,” Bullrich said.

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