June 15, 2018 / 3:17 AM / a year ago

Peru's new finance minister sees growth quickening to 4 percent this year

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s new finance minister told Reuters on Thursday he thinks the economy will grow by about 4 percent this year, faster than the government’s current view of 3.6 percent, thanks to recovering business confidence and investments.

Peru's Finance Minister Carlos Oliva speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Finance Ministry in Lima, Peru June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

In his first interview with foreign media since taking office a week ago, Carlos Oliva described his optimistic outlook for Peru’s $215 billion economy, whose growth slowed sharply last year to 2.5 percent on severe flooding and a graft scandal that led to the resignation of the former president.

“We’re seeing investments recover. Construction. Tax collection is growing. There’s a dynamism that’s underway that we expect to continue,” Oliva said in his office in downtown Lima.

“I think we’re definitely going to be in the range of 4 percent,” he said, referring to annual growth this year.

Oliva said he would continue efforts to reduce Peru’s dollar-denominated debt, aiming to raise the share of debt in the local sol currency to 75-80 percent from about 60 percent now.

A team in his ministry was on the lookout for opportunities to improve Peru’s debt profile with new bond issuances, he added. “When we see a window ... we’ll do it.”

A former deputy finance minister during the 2011-2016 government of former president Ollanta Humala, and a central bank director after that, Oliva is Peru’s fifth finance minister in the past year, a reminder of the political uncertainty that has loomed over one of Latin America’s most stable economies.

Oliva was appointed after his predecessor abruptly resigned following an uproar over his move to increase excise tax rates on diesel and other fuels.

Oliva said the government of President Martin Vizcarra, who took office in March, would not make any more changes to tax rates.

Instead, it would seek to bolster tax collection by tackling tax avoidance and evasion.

Thanks to a recent rebound in tax collection, the government might post a fiscal deficit this year that is slightly under the official target of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product, Oliva said.

“What matters to me is not going over it. Our priority right now isn’t to lower it ... because lowering it by cutting spending could be counterproductive for the growth we’re starting to see,” Oliva said.

Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing By Mitra Taj; Editing by Richard Borsuk, Robert Birsel

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