Maria Antonieta Alva, Peru’s Finance Minister is suddenly a rock star. All thanks to an ambitious recovery package to mitigate the coronavirus crisis. The 35-year-old is being hailed for her generosity and efforts to help small businesses and ordinary citizens in the times of the devastating pandemic.
Tony, as she is fondly called, has been regarded as an increasingly important figure in President Martin Vizcarra’s cabinet since her appointment in October 2019. From the efforts she’s made in explaining the public policies to her countrypeople to her commendable response during the coronavirus crisis, she has truly emerged as one of the most approachable leaders in world politics. Ricardo Hausmann, Harvard economist and one of the lead experts advising Peru and 10 other countries on mitigating the coronavirus crisis says, “From a Latin perspective, Peru is a clear leader in terms of macro response. You could have imagined a very different outcome if Toni weren’t there.”
Just months after her appointment as the Finance Minister, a huge dilemma stared her into the face–a population of millions of shopkeepers, street vendors, and artisans who live hand-to-mouth looking at bleak future in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of panicking, Tony immediately jumped into action, consulted a number of trusted economists, and then worked an arrangement with her cabinet colleagues for an array of immediate solutions. The relief was offered through cash handouts, government-backed business loans, and payroll subsidies, arrangements hitherto unexplored by the Peru government.
“It’s been her push within the government that has led to such a clear articulation of the measures and the response,” said Jaime Reusche, one of the analysts at Moody’s Investors Service in a media statement.
Tony has certainly displayed impeccable alacrity and leadership in times when her country needed it the most. Perhaps this has something to do with her exposure to poverty since she was a child and how it shaped her vision as well as her academic career. As a student, Tony co-founded a charity to aid poor children in receiving higher education and also started a public-policy debate group towards the same end. She is also known to have spent two months in India for a project meant for the fulfillment of her Master’s degree from Harvard. During the stay, she studied educational opportunities for girls in the country.
As poor, local vendors, and daily vendors across the world look at a dark future amidst the pressing load of the coronavirus crisis, Tony has certainly set up an example of great leadership. In a country that is known for its machismo, she has literally emerged against all the odds. She has shown that now is the time to act and take responsibility for your country’s poor and those who face the brunt of the coronavirus crisis. Economic leaders can certainly learn a lesson or two from this wonder woman!
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