Argentina's new economy minister, Juan V. Sourouille, said Thursday night that greater belt-tightening efforts were needed to allow the government's austerity program to pull the country out of the deepest economic crisis of this century.
In his first nationally televised address since assuming office last week, Sourouille said that both economic recovery and the future of Argentina's 14-month-old democratic institutions depend on getting its 750 percent annual inflation rate under control.
"The country will get moving again. It will leave behind the longest period of economic stagnation in its contemporary history . . . if we can put a brake on inflation," the 44-year-old Harvard-trained Sourouille said.
As he spoke, the central bank announced it was reducing mandatory reserve requirements on bank deposits by 13 percent in an effort to put new cash into Argentina's credit-starved market. It also announced that a 2 percent interest rate increase was being levied on credit in the state-controlled market.
"We are still in a position to determine the magnitude and duration of the sacrifices we need to make," Sourouille added. "But by saying 'no' to austerity now, we will be forced to take measures more severe, more costly to all within a short time."
Observers here said the speech appeared to mark a turnaround in official thinking on the economic crisis, conditioning demands for economic redistribution and growth to the anti-inflation fight.