The test of the street, then the test of elected officials: Argentina's parliament will continue on Thursday with ultra-liberal President Javier Milei's regulatory reforms, a plan that has already been strongly revised by an executive and pushed to parliamentary compromises and devoted to several days of debate.
After twelve hours of debate, the House of Representatives adjourned the day before for lively debates on this large and controversial speech. A marathon session with nearly 200 speakers is scheduled over several days.
“The plan is controversial, but only for those who want to keep their privileges,” assured José Luis Espart, one of the representatives of La Libertad Avanza, the third force in parliament.
Outside, a few thousand anti-reform protesters demonstrated on Wednesday at the invitation of social movements and the far left. Later in the day, some clashes pitted some demonstrators against police, who cleared roads near parliament and fired tear gas, AFP noted.
However, the mobilization was inconsistent with a general strike and demonstrations in several cities on January 24, a month and a half after Miley's inauguration.
The set of reforms affected almost every area from electoral system to education, culture to privatisation, criminal law, business, defence, firefighting, divorce, status of football clubs. After weeks of negotiations, key tax reforms and a controversial change to the pension code were halved.
– What superpowers? –
Points of contention include: privatization – oil giant YPF has been excluded, but 40 companies remain the target – and the temporary granting of powers to the executive in the name of “economic emergency” and society.
Delegates were initially expected on Thursday to hold a so-called “public” vote on the principle of the law before examining the articles in detail.
The scene remains uncertain: representatives of the centrist opposition are ready to give the administration “opportunities to govern” but are hesitant about the delegation of power, its duration, its extension. According to Martin Detas, “a third of the plan will have difficulty getting approved” and its volume will require changes.
In the Left Opposition, M.P. Hugo Yassky, “a blank check for the admirer of Vox, Bolsonaro, Trump and the entire extreme right of the world”, urged the House not to vote on the delegation of power.
“Today, politics has the opportunity to start repairing the damage done to the Argentine people,” President Mili said on social network X.
– Stagnation –
Miley, 53, who defines himself as an “anarcho-capitalist”, has shaken up Argentine politics in two years of rapid growth – vice president in 2021 and then president in November 2023 – a deregulation and “cutting” of an “adversarial state” and high prices.
“There is no Plan B” for fiscal austerity, he has insisted in recent days, once again putting an economy in debt and chronic inflation of 211% by 2023.
Indeed, its strongest measures to date are already affecting the daily lives of millions of Argentines: the devaluation of the peso by more than 50% in December, “liberating” prices – which the previous government tried to control as much as possible. – and the end of subsidies for transport, especially energy.
The first tangible impact: monthly inflation in December at 25%. Mr Miley warned that “stagnation” (stagnation of activity combined with high inflation) in 2024 is “going to get worse”.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Wednesday that “the government is taking bold steps to restore macroeconomic stability and overcome obstacles to growth.”
Expecting 2.8% growth in Argentina in 2024, the IMF has revised its forecasts and projections to a -2.8% slowdown in Latin America's 3rd economy under the impact of austerity measures. The Fund's view is that the country will be the only G20 in recession in 2024, before recovering by +5% in 2025.
At 3:41 a.m. on February 1, AFP released
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