In a surprise move President Ollanta Humala changed his Finance minister on Sunday, appointing a well-known economist to lead the portfolio.
Alonso Segura, who was previously the chief of the advisory cabinet in the Finance ministry, was sworn in Sunday evening to succeed Luis Miguel Castilla.
Castilla, who reportedly resigned for personal reasons, was the last remaining member of Humala’s first cabinet to still be serving in the same post. His appointment in 2011 helped to ease concerns in the business sector that Humala would veer towards a greater state role in the economy. At the swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, Castilla said that his resignation did not mean he would be distancing himself from the President and that he would continue “supporting the President in everything he considers pertinent.”
Segura takes over at a time when Peru’s economy has slowed considerably in recent months. He is well-respected in the private-sector, having previously served as the chief economist of Banco de Credito, Peru’s biggest bank, and also worked with the International Monetary Fund. He was also previously president of the special committee for public investment projects at ProInversion and a director of Cofide, the development finance corporation.
He was trained in economics at Peru’s Catholic University and the University of Pennsylvania, where he did his doctorate.
Segura said during an interview with state television after his appointment that the worst of the economic downturn has ended and that the government will continue to evaluate new measures to support economic growth.
“What is important is that the worst has ended. The growth figures for July, August, September should be gradually better,” he said.
On Monday, Peru’s national statistics institute INEI said the economy grew 1.16 percent in July, which is a weak performance but better than the 0.3 percent reported in June.
The private sector is backing Segura’s appointment.
“It is a change in the person, but there will be continuity and there won’t be changes in the economic path,” Oscar Rivera, the president of Peru’s banking association, Asbanc, said in comments to state news agency Andina.
Peru’s largest business organization, Confiep, said that Segura’s greatest challenge will be to reduce red tape in order to facilitate investments, which would give a boost to the sluggish economy. In his role as chief adviser in the Ministry, one of Segura’s main tasks had been to find solutions to the red tape problems.
“Alonso Segura has all the conditions to do things well and win a spot in the successful history of Peru,” said Confiep president Alfonso Garcia-Miró. “Being very young, he has stood out in the private sector. Segura is coming in with an absolutely positive and optimistic attitude, which is how economic leaders in the country should be.”
The National Society of Industries’ president, Jose Luis Salazar, called on Congress to give the new minister full backing in his efforts to cut down the entangled permitting processes and make public and private investment easier.