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Harvard-Trained Alva Becomes Finance Chief in New Peru Cabinet

John Quigley

(Bloomberg) -- Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra swore in a new ministerial team on Thursday as he prepares to govern without political opposition after dissolving Congress earlier this week.

Maria Antonieta Alva, a 34-year old Harvard graduate who previously oversaw the national budget at the Finance Ministry, was appointed Finance Minister, replacing Carlos Oliva. Vizcarra changed more than half of his 19-member cabinet, including Energy & Mines and Foreign Ministers.

Peru’s previous cabinet resigned on Sept. 30 after losing a confidence vote, entitling Vizcarra to dissolve Congress and call new parliamentary elections for January. Lawmakers say the move was unconstitutional and plan a legal challenge. Until a new Congress is in place next year, the president can rule by decree, giving him freedom to push ahead with policies including a $30 billion infrastructure plan to bolster the economy.

“They have amazing political space,” said Pablo Secada, a former finance ministry official who runs Opportunity Investments, a Lima-based financial advisory firm. “The mere fact that there won’t be this political warring will boost the economy.”

Read more: Peruvians Celebrate Shuttered Congress, Ignoring Ugly Precedent

For Vizcarra, who hadn’t been seen in public since dissolving Congress, Thursday’s swear-in ceremony at the presidential palace was an opportunity to get back to the business of running the country after lawmakers backed down on an initial attempt to unseat him.

The sol strengthened 0.4% to 3.374 per dollar at the close of trading, recovering most of the losses since Monday’s political events.

Among the pending duties for the new cabinet will be approving the 2020 budget law, which was sent to Congress in August.

New Minister

Alva obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics from Universidad del Pacifico in 2008 and a Master’s degree in public administration in international development from Harvard University in 2014, according to a government website. She joined the Finance Ministry in 2010 and later oversaw spending at the Education and Social Inclusion Ministries before returning to the Finance Ministry as budget chief in 2017.

“She’s prudent, hardworking and well-liked at the finance ministry,” said Secada about the new minister, adding that the Peruvian economy is now in position to advance faster and grow as much as 4% next year.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Quigley in Lima at jquigley8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net, Matthew Bristow

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