Eduardo Costantini on Argentina: the country has great metrics, but still suffers an image problem.

Author:Bustos, Elida


BUENOS AIRES -- He never stopped building in Argentina, in spite of the harsh ups-and-downs of the country's politics and economy. For Eduardo Costantini, economist, businessman and an avid collector of Latin American art, building is his element. He builds with designs and textures; harmonious and attractive lines as crucial elements, demonstrated by his functional yet exquisite buildings rising in the city and urban developments in rural areas like Nordeha or Puertos del Lago. It is these "city-towns," close to the Argentine capital and masterfully integrated into their natural surroundings, that in a few years will house 170,000 residents.

"With economic growth, construction is dynamic and has a multiplier effect," Costantini tells Latin Trade, referring to Argentina's growth rates, which have been rising since 2003 and hit a peak of 9.2 percent in 2005 and 2010. "Argentina is in a different position than in previous decades. It has a situation of unusual solvency, low debt and solid assets," unlike what is being experienced in Europe and the United States.

"There has never been such a low level of debt," he says, and adds that a snapshot of the Argentine economy shows a solid level of assets never before seen, which contrasts greatly to 2000, when the country "was trapped by its foreign debt."

From his office at the Museum of Latin American Art--which he himself built and which houses part of his exquisite collection of paintings--the businessman compares the situation that Argentina was in a little more than 10 years ago to its current one, and he believes that abroad there persists a perception of risk about the country that is not based on reality. Similarly, he feels that the low level of foreign investment is due to "a kind of bad image" that arises from not having finished paying the foreign debt and for having an economic policy that is heterodox, but "not necessarily as bad as foreign investors see it."

Costantini can't understand how sophisticated institutional investors that buy debt bonds can compare Argentina's debt to that of countries like Italy, a member of the European Union that has a serious solvency problem, a high unemployment rate and is straggling to make good on its foreign obligations. Argentina "projects a fear that is--in my opinion--unjustified," he adds. But he believes that it is this perception of risk that makes foreign investors "sometimes choose Colombia, Peru or Brazil, which is...

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