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Argentine Economy Minister resigns

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Mr Dujovne's tenure was plagued by the unpopular IMF deal, significant spending cuts, recession and inflation over 50 per cent.

Buenos Aires

ARGENTINE Economy Minister Nicolas Dujovne resigned on Saturday, capping a week of market chaos that followed President Mauricio Macri's stunning loss in a primary vote.

Mr Dujovne, who led bailout negotiations between Argentina and the International Monetary Fund last year, justified his departure by saying the government needs "significant renewal in the economic area" following Mr Macri's defeat to leftist Alberto Fernandez on Aug 10.

"No doubt we've made mistakes, which we never failed to acknowledge and which we tried to correct as much as possible," Mr Dujovne wrote in a letter to the president. "It's been an honour for me to serve in your government."

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Hernan Lacunza, economy minister for the province of Buenos Aires, will replace Mr Dujovne, according to a statement from the presidential palace.

Mr Dujovne's departure comes at the end of a week that has seen Argentina's peso and sovereign bonds fall to record lows. Fitch Ratings and S&P Global on Friday downgraded Argentina deeper into junk citing the possibility of a sovereign debt default. Investors have been dumping Argentine assets for fear that Mr Fernandez may shun the IMF deal and implement interventionist policies if elected on Oct 27.

Mr Macri rolled out several economics measures last week to appease voters, including tax breaks and plans to increase the minimum wage while freezing fuel prices. Local media had reported that Mr Dujovne didn't support the measures because they could violate fiscal targets agreed upon with IMF in exchange for a US$56 billion credit line. An IMF spokesman declined to comment.

Mr Dujovne's tenure was plagued by the unpopular IMF deal, significant spending cuts, recession and inflation over 50 per cent. While the economy was showing signs of digging out of its hole in May and June, this week's market rout is likely to put it back in the red.

Mr Lacunza, 50, has since December 2015 been the economy minister for the Buenos Aires province, the biggest in the country with more than 16 million inhabitants. He was general manager and chief economist at the central bank between 2005 and 2010, after which he founded Empiria, an economic consulting firm.

A big soccer fan, Mr Lacunza speaks calmly and will need a cold head to maintain an open channel with the IMF while attending to the needs of Argentines. As the peso's sharp drop increases prices of imported goods, inflation is likely to accelerate again, adding to the pain of a country suffering with double-digit unemployment.

"I'm deeply sorry that Hernan Lacunza will have to take care of this disaster," Guillermo Nielsen, an economic adviser for Mr Fernandez, said in a Twitter post. "A professional with his track record and integrity deserves to take care of a more normal situation." BLOOMBERG