'Long live freedom, dammit!‘ Argentina's Milei dazzles Davos with tirade

President, who has been likened to Donald Trump, calls for small government, low tax and end to gender equality rules

Argentina's new president rails against socialism in Davos speech

Argentina's new president rails against socialism in Davos speech
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Like an Argentine William Wallace, Javier Milei cried “freedom” at the end of a World Economic Forum speech in Davos in which he put forward a case for radical global capitalism.

Mobbed by the media and attendees, Argentina's new president delivered an address the likes of which the staid halls have rarely heard in 54 years.

Part neoclassical economics lecture, part Trumpian tirade, he called for small government, the removal of bureaucratic elites, and the culling of any form of gender equality policies, while also attacking collectivist economics and wealth redistribution.

I'm here to tell you that the western world is in danger
Javier Milei

After all, socialism “murdered 100 million people”, Mr Milei said, met by muted laughter from those in attendance.

“Long live freedom, dammit!” he said to applause after a 23-minute address.

Mr Milei took office last month pledging to roll back the Argentine state after an election campaign punctuated with populist tirades.

At home, he is battling to fix the country's worst economic crisis in decades. He hopes to tame annual inflation – currently above 200 per cent – build up foreign currency reserves and lure back investment.

The trip to Davos – attended by a mix of the elites he rails against and the business tycoons his policies would enrich – marks Mr Milei's first overseas tour since he took office.

He has pledged to stick by radical policies, including shutting down the central bank.

During his address, Mr Milei, who earlier took selfies and fought through a media scrum to exit the main congress hall, put forward the claim that humanity's growth and wealth creation were huge before governments began to interfere in the market.

He took particular aim at socialists and their policies.

“Impoverishment created by collectivism is no fantasy; it is an inescapable fate,” he said, in an attack on Argentina's past governments and other left-leaning administrations.

“We have lived through this, we have been through this – ever since we decided to live through this model … poorer and poorer day by day.”

“I'm here to tell you that the western world is in danger, and it is endangered because those who are supposed to have to defend the values of the West are co-opted by a vision of the world that inextricably leads to socialism, and thereby to poverty.”

Mr Milei asked businesspeople and self-made millionaires in the audience to go out and sell his agenda to the world.

Otherwise, he said, “greater regulation that creates a downward spiral of regulations until we are all poorer, and our lives depend on a bureaucrat sitting in a luxury office”.

Mr Milei travelled on a commercial plane to save the estimated $300,000 to hire a chartered flight.

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Updated: January 18, 2024, 6:17 AM