Argentina’s libertarian President Javier Milei has accused western leaders of abandoning “the values of the west” in a high-profile address to the World Economic Forum, where his debut on the world stage met with warm applause.
“I am here to tell you that the western world is in danger . . . because those who are supposed to defend the values of the west have been co-opted by a vision of the world that inexorably leads to socialism, and therefore to poverty,” Milei told an audience in Davos on Wednesday.
He said “international organisations” had been influenced by “collectivism”, “radical feminism” and a “cruel . . . environmental agenda”.
Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist and former television pundit, was elected on an anti-establishment platform in November amid the troubled South American economy’s worst crisis in two decades.
The head of a large European buyout firm came out of the congress hall “impressed” by Milei’s speech.
Ahead of the speech, Daniel Pinto, JPMorgan president and chief operating officer, said Argentina’s new government “may be creating a new beginning for the country, bringing an end to 80 years of economic deterioration”.
He warned of a “tough year” ahead, however, as Milei’s plans “require the population to be willing to go through the pain of [austerity]”.
Milei’s economic policies have also won initial support from the IMF.
Milei’s Davos appearance, his first overseas trip as president, was his first chance to pitch his ultraliberal vision to the global elite following his shock election victory.
Milei on Wednesday said: “The case of Argentina is an empirical demonstration that no matter how rich you may be, or how much you may have in terms of natural resource . . . if measures are adopted that hinder the free function of markets . . . the only possible fate is poverty.”
Since taking office in December, the libertarian economist has moved rapidly to slash Argentina’s fiscal deficit and deregulate the economy.
The IMF delivered a vote of confidence in Milei’s plans last week as its technical staff approved a $4.7bn disbursement of the country’s $43bn loan programme, enabling it to pay the fund back for earlier lending. Argentina is its largest debtor.
The decision is pending approval by the IMF’s board. Milei met IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday after his speech.