Los Grobo in the Media
With the ways campechanos of the man of the interior, a plain language, frank and direct, Gustavo Grobocopatel opens his offices of the Corrientes street, in the 8th floor of the Grain Exchange, to talk with 3Días about the Argentina of Macri. President of Los Grobo, an agribusiness company that invoices U.S. $ 650 million a year and has 90,000 hectares of production, Grobo is far from that cliché spent and remanido the heartless businessman and speculator who only thinks about counting their millions.
Conversely; humility is the first trait that comes to mind when you meet this agronomist, born and raised in Carlos Casares, where is the base of operations of your company. But being humble does not prevent Grobo from encouraging himself to dream big: "I dream of making Los Grobo a great multinational". The confession will arrive at the end of the interview, before saying goodbye and entering, at a firm pace, through Corrientes to mingle with the passers-by.
Macri has been managing for two and a half years. How do you see Argentina? Do you still think that gradualism was the best option despite the delay in showing economic results?
-First, I think we did not take into account the magnitude of the imbalances that there were and the difficulties that there were, it is also true that in the last two years there has been a much more negative international context than that we had before and, within that context , a program was put together that, I would say, has not even been an option for the Government; It was the only possibility there was. Always thinking about trying to suffer society as little as possible. The gradualism is to accommodate all those imbalances that were in time, generating a space where the issues are managed to lower inflation, lower the external deficit, lower the internal deficit, all in a context where there is an uncompetitive economy, a record of tax pressure and public spending. And also, we came with a cultural theme to adapt for 12 years to quite tough situations, and changing that culture also costs. That said, I think there have been great advances in many aspects and there are other things that are pending.
You tweeted once the gradualism requires "a motivating story" to hold on in time with the expectation that we are going for something bigger. Did Macri compose that story or did he stay halfway?
-No, not enough. I believe that gradualism requires two things: one is a micromanagement that is much more complex than shock. The shock fixes more or less everything to the sticks, the gradualism is not to the sticks, but it requires a much more detailed, much more precise and precious management, with which there is much more to be done, and that is more difficult. And second, it's like you threw yourself on a boat and you still have not reached the other shore, you have to have an idea of where you're going to arrive, how you're going to get there, why the other shore is better. It seems to me that there is an effort by the Government to try to say this, still quite tenuous, because I believe that the Government thinks that by fixing the macroeconomic imbalances, that will automatically generate some kind of change in culture, attitudes and others. It seems to me that in addition to fixing the macroeconomic imbalances, a story that facilitates the cultural change we need is required.
It is also complicated for the Government, which has tight times, has elections every two years, and holds expectations high. It is seen that it is not proving easy...
-Depends, in the day to day we all have problems, because gradualism is a process that we all pay for; the shock is paid by employees, salaried employees... Gradualism is paid by the people, but also by the entrepreneurs. Then you go to meetings and we are all depressed because we are all "putting", let's say (laughs). But I think you have to look over the obstacles. I believe that in Argentina, structurally, we have a number of positive foundations in every sense, and it seems to me that what is coming is better.
How do you see the behavior, in general, of entrepreneurs? There is, almost from the beginning of the administration, a feeling that the business community does not accompany enough, does not put the shoulder, Minister Cabrera goes out calling them "weepers" ... Is it a misperception of the Government or a certain Argentine business community? Is he still imbued with what his role should be in this process?
-We both ask more. We have a structural disease, that disease that generates poverty, is our cancer. And that has many decades, is one of the few countries in the world that creates poverty, all other countries, or have stable, in the worst case, or decreases. We create poverty. Why? Because we do not have a competitive structure as a country, in the broadest sense of the word competitive, not only in the economic and social issue, we are little integrated into the world, we are not good at research and development and in applied scientific knowledge, companies they invest little, taxes are high, lack integration to the world, and there is a shared responsibility between the private sector and the public. So who is responsible for the lack of competitiveness? Entrepreneurs think that the Government has to lower taxes and improve the quality of the State and open more free trade agreements with the world; the State says "they have to invest more in technology, efficiency," etc. We make mutual claims, but in reality, I believe that we both have the same vision of what the problem is and how to solve it. Entrepreneurs would like to think more long-term and invest more, what happens in our history that was alive is the one that resisted shocks thinking in the short term. And for the Government it is very difficult to do everything, because it has to take care of the common interest of the people. Anyway, I think they are discussions that are done in a positive frame, quite good, before there was no dialogue and now there is. It is a proper discussion of the transformations and the coming times.
Many times it is said that things are better or worse, depending on the sector of the economy that is looked at. The field had in its backpack the retentions, the 125, the "yuyo", as Cristina was referring to the soy ... Is the Agro one of the winners of the Macri era?
-When they ask me if the field was benefited, I answer that the field stopped being "unbearable". That is, it is not that we become winners, we stop losing what we lost, although in years like this, of drought, we still lose. That is to say, they have been repaired in some way from all the messes that were before and the field reacted: increased production, increased sales of pick ups, agricultural machinery, the use of fertilizers and that is a path that must be follow. Does that road solve the problems that Argentina has? No, it is an important column, also the field must process more raw materials, it must be industrialized much more. Now, we can not generate more added value and export more if we are not integrated into the world, the agreement now Mercosur-EU is key, there are many tasks to be carried out from the private sector and the public sector: the seed law, the revision of the theme of leases, which have to be at least medium-term, the theme of multi-risk insurance, the quality of some institutes such as Senasa, the professionalization of INTA and INTI, making them of the 21st century, we are all agreement that you have to do it. The worst that can happen is when I find an official or a politician who talks about everything he did; and I would prefer that they talk about everything they have to do. That is part of the fine tuning of gradualism. The management of gradualism requires a superlative awareness of what needs to be done and less about what was done.
It is often said that Macri knows entrepreneurs well because he is one of them. He trained in his father's company, but it is also true that he already has a long political career: Boca president, deputy, head of government, now president. Can he still be classified as an outsider of politics or is he more like the traditional Argentine politician?
-I do not know if he is a traditional politician, he is a politician with his own imprint. He is someone who already has several decades, two decades in politics, does not do badly, is doing very well, and has his own mark: he is an engineer and is someone who has evolved. If you see Macri as he was before and how it is now, you notice that he is a person who has changed, evolved, there are many people who are surprised when they know him. Sometimes one would like something else, or have some kind of optimistic view on other issues, but our reality today is what it is, we can not generate false expectations, we have to generate expectations based on real facts and the real facts have difficulties.
I was referring to if you see in Macri a politician, let's say, modern that came to change the ways of doing politics in Argentina, that idea that the Government raises from the discourse...
-The reality is that it is the first time in the last 100 years that this is not a Peronist, military or radical government. It is something new, we do not know how it will end, but obviously it comes to rethink the issue of politics and comes to generate a new political generation, different from what we had. In that sense, I am very hopeful with the process of change. I would also like the opposition to be rearmed and that there be a dialogue and a dance between the opposition and the ruling party, even if they are exchanged, that there is rotation in power, in such a way that this path of the republic, democracy, is consolidated , the integration to the world, competitiveness.
Why do you think it costs the government so much to tame inflation?
-Because it is complicated, I am not an economist, I can not tell you if I am a supporter of this or that formula, I say it is complicated because if you have an external deficit you get into debt, dollars come in, that makes the exchange rate depreciate, but at the same time you have to buy and sterilize, then you need high interest rates, high interest rates ... anyway. I get the impression that if we get to the other side of the river systemically lowering inflation, deficits and others, we will enter a much more balanced stage of the economy, which is what the countries around us have: Chile , Peru and Uruguay. How do you get to be Chile, Peru and Uruguay in these macroeconomic issues? It is not through shocks or sweep the garbage under the carpet but to expose these issues and treat them in a balanced way. If you tell me, are you worried? Yes, I'm worried, inflation, interest rates, that's something that discourages investment, that's why investment is still very low, it generates costs in companies, loss of assets ... We're all struggling and it's part of our contribution to gradualism.
Exactly, what are the issues that make the entrepreneur still retract when it comes to investing?
-Retracts for this, because if you have to invest or put in Lebac, and ... you should put in Lebac. And also if a foreign investor, to top it off in the world the income from investments, in the US. and Europe, it's very high. Why will they put money in Argentina, earning less with Argentine risk? If the context does not help them either.
Another hot topic is the rates. Now the Government is looking for a solution by encouraging the provinces to reduce taxes...
-In the subject tariffs I had an experience. I do consulting work, I did an important job with Harvard, with Professor Ricardo Hausmann, in Albania. And it was up to him to solve something of what I participated. Albania had an energy deficit, had to import energy and had very low tariffs. He recommended raising the rates, the external deficit turned into a surplus, and people began to take more care, in this case, light and gas.
So they did it?
-They made it, it's an effort, but the Argentines do not take care. I have a house in Uruguay where I pay a fortune of light, and turn off the light as I did when I was little. We have to make an effort, be efficient, turn off, not use energy, then, that has a positive domino effect. There are places where you have to be very careful, you have to have a social rate for certain sectors, the problem there is not the rate but they earn very little or do not have work. Perhaps the Government in its eagerness to resolve these issues as soon as possible, is not as careful as it should be. There is this dance of the deputies in the Congress, of the discussions that are interesting, I see it as something positive, that's what democracy is about, to generate consensus, because they are not exactly right. Of course there is a political strategy, mischief, some are more responsible or less, all that is part of politics.
You speak always of the revolution of knowledge. Would you say that we have a political, trade union, and business leadership in Argentina ready to face this challenge?
-There are islands of great global quality, that really know what is coming, are prepared, are doing things. As a society as a whole, we still do not understand well, we have fears and we prefer to fight those risks by denying them. Risks must be fought by accepting them, knowing them and putting together a strategy to follow forward. Those who adapt will grow more and enrich themselves more; those who do not adapt will be impoverished more. There can be problems, and there is the State seeing how this process is more inclusive.
By Micaela Pérez. Automatic translation from spanish.
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