Shortly after the Declaration of Independence of Argentina, the then existing colonial Spanish administration began to give way to modern state bodies.
After 1820, Argentina witnessed the creation of a series of organizations: its first bank, Banco de Buenos Aires—a joint endeavor of the provincial government, and English and local merchants—; its Stock Exchange; and its first Office for Public Lending to plan for governmental financing. With the so-called “national organization” following the enactment of the Constitution in 1853, new state agencies were set up to support a growing economic expansion based on an agro-export model. During Bartolomé Mitre’s administration (1862-1868), two more agencies were set up: the Office for Bank Inspection, which aimed to supervise state-owned and private banks; and the Office for National Public Lending, which was in charge of managing the State’s debt owed to domestic creditors and foreign investors.
In 1890, President Carlos Pellegrini created the Caja de Conversión as the sole organization in charge of issuing money and managing gold reserves in order to restore trust in the Argentine currency—which had been eroded by the abusive circulation of banknotes issued by public and private banks. In 1891, Banco de la Nación Argentina was founded, after the winding up of Banco Nacional, which had been created by President Domingo F. Sarmiento in 1872 in an attempt to establish a sound public bank at a national level.
The Central Bank was born in 1935 as the new financial regulatory institution, taking on the mission of the then dissolved Caja de Conversión and the Office for National Public Lending, and assuming some of the duties of Banco de la Nación Argentina.
The First Office for Public Lending
After the fall of the last Supreme Director in 1820, the provinces of the Río de la Plata governed themselves, under the umbrella of no national authorities. During Martín Rodríguez’s administration, a law was enacted in the Province of Buenos Aires (on November 3, 1821) to create a public lending system and the Caja de Amortización.
The funds lent to the State of Buenos Aires were recorded in the Book of Public Funds and Revenue kept at the provincial legislature. The loans raised by the Government of the Province of Buenos Aires were collateralized by public lands and tax revenue.
In 1822, the Province of Buenos Aires planned borrowing 5 million pesos fuertes to revamp the city's port, install a water supply network and build three new towns in the south of Buenos Aires. In 1827, an amount of 1 million pounds sterling was borrowed from Baring Brothers & Co., which marked the beginning of Argentina’s external debt.
The funds of the English loan—or rather, the portion left after deducting significant amounts of fees, and moneys given in advance—were actually used to afford the war with Brazil after the invasion of the Banda Oriental del Uruguay which ended in 1828.
The principal and interest were repaid several decades later. Based on Minister Pedro Agote’s estimates, Argentina ended up paying around 44 pounds for every pound borrowed.
Office for National Public Lending (1864 – 1935)
At the end of 1863, during Bartolomé Mitre's administration, a bill proposed by Dalmacio Vélez Sarsfield (lawyer) became Law No. 79—on the Organization of National Public Lending—. The Office for National Public Lending reported to the National Congress and was responsible for managing the debts and loans of the Argentine Republic.
In 1864, the Great Book of Revenues and Public Funds was created to record Argentine loans and debts. During the first decades of its creation, the Office for National Public Lending honored debts from the war of independence (1810-1824), the civil war between Unitarios and Federales (1829-1853), and the Argentine Confederation (1854-1862).
Between the late 19th century and the early 20th century, this Office managed various new debts to fund the National State in the “Conquest of the Desert” in 1878; in the construction of railways, bridges and roads, among many more public works, such as water supply networks and sewers, and major public buildings; and in the installation of telegraphs.
The first venue of the Office for National Public Lending was the old building occupied by the National Congress. Later on, the Office moved to the National Government House. Between 1912 and 1935, the Office was located at San Martín 216 (current home to the BCRA’s Museum), until the building was passed on to the Central Bank of Argentina.
The Story of a Magnificent Jewel
Norberto de la Riestra was an Argentine businessman who moved to England in the 1840s and made successful business deals and financial contracts. In 1857, when De la Riestra was serving as Minister of Economy of Buenos Aires, the repayment of the English debt incurred in 1824 was resumed after having been suspended during the civil war between Unitarios and Federales.
The outbreak of the war with Paraguay in 1865 made Argentina incur a new English debt, the negotiation of which was led by Minister De la Riestra, who had proved to be smart enough to get funds from British investors.
In 1866, Lord David Robertson—on behalf of British investors—gave Norberto de la Riestra a gold engraved case with a 587 karat topaz set in the lid.
Inside the case there is a dedication in English to De la Riestra, which reads, “A mark of his high esteem and great regard for an able Statesman, a sound Financier and a great and good man in all the relations of life.”
During Hipólito Yrigoyen’s administration, Norberto de la Riestra’s heirs donated this jewel to the National Government in memory of their father.
In 1921, an executive order established that the jewel was to be kept by the Office for National Public Lending as a permanent tribute to “the valuable services of the distinguished financier and statesman, Norberto de la Riestra”. From 1935 onwards, the jewel case has been kept in custody by the Central Bank of Argentina.
Presidents of the Caja de Conversión
|1890 - 1891||Manuel Aguirre|
|1891 - 1892||Víctor Martínez|
|1892 - 1893||Nicolás Achával|
|1893 - 1894||Luis P. Molina|
|1894 - 1895||Plácido Marín|
|1895 - 1896||Rafael Peró|
|1896 - 1903||Francisco L. García (vicepresidente a cargo)|
|1903 - 1905||Carlos Alberto Mayol|
|1905 - 1907||José María Rosa|
|1907 - 1908||Luis Ortíz Basualdo|
|1908 - 1910||Pastor Senillosa|
|1910 - 1912||Luis Ortíz Basualdo|
|1912 - 1912||Juan Antonio Areco (vicepresidente a cargo)|
|1912 - 1912||Ignacio M. Gómez (interino)|
|1912 - 1913||Plácido Marín (interino)|
|1913 - 1913||Alberto Bosch (vicepresidente a cargo)|
|1913 - 1917||Luis Ortíz Basualdo|
|1917 - 1917||Plácido Marín (interino)|
|1917 - 1920||Luis Ortíz Basualdo|
|1920 - 1920||Juan Antonio Areco (interino)|
|1920 - 1922||Plácido Marín|
|1922 - 1923||Alberto E. Castex (vicepresidente a cargo)|
|1923 - 1924||Plácido Marín|
|1924 - 1925||Alberto E. Castex|
|1925 - 1925||Antonio Dellepiane (vicepresidente a cargo)|
|1925 - 1930||Alberto E. Castex|
|1930 - 1932||Nicolás A. Avellaneda|
|1932 - 1932||Antonio M. Delfino (vicepresidente a cargo)|
|1932 - 1934||Ernesto Mignaquy|
|1934 - 1935||Julio A. Rosa|