December 2, 2017 / 6:26 PM / 16 days ago

Peru's business community sours on Kuczynski: survey

PARACAS, Peru (Reuters) - Support from business leaders for Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has plummeted, a survey showed, as he spars with an opposition-controlled Congress and struggles to revive economic growth.

The survey by Ipsos Peru, taken at a business forum in Paracas to the south of Lima last week and released late on Friday, showed participants’ approval for Kuczynski fell to 37 percent from 89 percent a year earlier at a similar event.

Kuczynski took office in July 2016 promising to modernize Peru and strengthen its economy with solid backing from Lima’s business elite after a tight runoff election against right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori.

But the 79-year-old former investment banker’s first year in power was hampered by Congress, which is dominated by Fujimori’s Popular Force Party and voted to oust his Cabinet in September.

Meanwhile economic growth in what was once one of Latin America’s fastest growing economies slowed after heavy flooding and a corruption scandal involving Brazilian builder Odebrecht stalled investment in public works projects.

“The economy and politics cannot continue on separate lines, their progress is interdependent and deficiencies in politics and institutions can block the path of our development,” the president of the business forum, Drago Kisic, told reporters.

Peru’s Central Bank President Julio Velarde also warned during the event that the clashes between the government and Congress could hinder growth in the future, saying the finance ministry had lost influence over the legislature.

“It is absolutely necessary in the long term that there be a better consensus among political forces in terms of agreeing on the essential elements to underpin growth,” he said.

Finance Minister Claudia Cooper said on Friday Peru’s economy could grow more than 4 percent in 2018, up from 2.8 percent expected in 2017, if private investment in the metals exporting nation recovered.

The Ipsos survey showed that among hundreds attending Peru’s best known business forum, disapproval with Kuczynski had risen to 63 percent from 11 percent a year earlier.

Closing the conference on Friday, Kuczynski defended his government and called on attendees and Congress to unite in a fight against populism.

“I want to ask you to speak out more clearly about the challenges that we are facing politically, this is a determined government, not a confrontational one,” he said.

Writing by Caroline StaufferEditing by Chizu Nomiyama

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