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[BUENOS AIRES] Argentina's finance minister said on Wednesday that the nation will see "concrete growth" by the end of the year due to the free-market reforms of the current government despite some slow-to-recover sectors in the South American country.
"The toughest part in terms of economic activity has already passed," Alfonso Prat-Gay told a gathering of foreign correspondents in Buenos Aires. "We are much better off than many thought."
Mr Prat-Gay was selected as finance minister by center-right President Mauricio Macri, who took power in December 2015. Inheriting a tightly controlled and struggling economy from his leftist predecessor, Cristina Fernandez, he promptly unwound her protectionist policies, lifting capital controls, easing import restrictions and freeing up access to dollars.
But many sectors have yet to see the beginnings of a promised recovery, particularly construction and manufacturing, which sank 6.4 per cent in annual terms in June.
Inflation is also stubbornly high, with the government registering it at 3.1 per cent in June, though Mr Prat-Gay said it had subsided in July.
"We're fighting a populist reflex that is many years old in Argentina," he said. "We've advanced quite a lot in six months."
The opening of the economy, he added, will be gradual to allow uncompetitive industries in Argentina to whip themselves into shape.
"We're giving Argentine businessmen four years to go to the gym, to train, to prepare themselves," said Mr Prat-Gay. "And in four years, they'll go out onto the field."