(Adds quote from Dujovne, context)
BUENOS AIRES, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Argentina’s government expects foreign direct investment to double in 2017 from 2016, Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne said on Thursday, citing inflows from public auctions for renewable and non-renewable energy projects.
President Mauricio Macri has struggled to attract investment in his first year in office, even though investors generally have praised his reform agenda, which has included letting the peso currency float, reducing the fiscal deficit and reaching a deal with holdout creditors to return to the global bond market.
“We started from a very low base,” Dujovne said. “It’s difficult to put a number on it, but it will be much higher than in 2016.”
The center-right administration held an investment forum in September 2016, attracting thousands of corporate executives to Buenos Aires and yielding high-profile investment pledges from companies like Siemens AG.
But many potential investors are waiting for the outcome of 2017 midterm congressional elections to ensure the country stays its course.
Nearly $60 billion in investments have been announced in Argentina since the beginning of 2016, government data shows. Of that, $33 billion was from other countries, with the rest originating in Argentina. The figure includes some public-private initiatives.
Companies have not yet executed all the investment they have promised, however. The amount of FDI that passed through the central bank’s accounts was less than $4 billion last year, Dujovne said.
“Adding up the disbursements from the renewable and non-renewable energy auctions alone, we’re approaching a much higher figure,” Dujovne said.
The government awarded 30 tenders for wind and solar energy projects worth some $4 billion late last year. Argentina faces a severe energy deficit, and Macri hopes boosting domestic renewable energy production can reduce the country’s dependence on natural gas imports.
Last month, Macri announced a deal with oil companies including Chevron and Shell to invest $5 billion to tap Argentina’s vast Vaca Muerta shale gas reserve, though $2.3 billion of that investment will come from state-owned oil company YPF. (Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)
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