After an opposition bid to hold a hostile session in Congress against the Mauricio Macri administration’s steep utility bill increases failed to muster quorum by just one votes on Wednesday, the government has agreed to contemplate staggering the increases, which have also been criticised by Macri’s Radical and Civic Coalition allies. Details are still being confirmed but with consumer gas prices set to rise in Argentina starting this month, action will be taken. At the end of a tense day there were noisy cacerolazo and ruidazo protests around town.
IMF FORECASTS DAMAGE HOPES FOR INFLATION, GROWTH
The latest report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rolls back Argentina’s 2018 growth forecast to two percent from 2.5 percent at the start of the year (and 3.5 percent in the 2018 budget) while predicting 19.2 percent inflation rate. The poorer growth estimate was largely blamed on the drought. Next year’s IMF projections are brighter – growth up to 3.2 percent and inflation down to 13.6 percent. Meanwhile unemployment is to fall from eight to 7.5 percent next year. Latin America as a whole has an identical 2018 growth forecast of two percent (2.8 percent next year) but the IMF is predicting 3.9 percent growth across the globe this year. Meanwhile, the Central Bank could renew 87 percent of its Lebac bonds last Tuesday thanks to calmer exchange markets recently.
Defence Minister Oscar Aguad was given a rough ride on Monday regarding the ARA San Juan submarine by the families of the missing crew. Constantly reproached by the relatives in the course of the six-hour encounter over the lack of results so far, Aguad revealed that 735 million pesos had already been spent on the search for the submarine (missing since mid-November) but that a private robot sub firm would be contracted to continue efforts.
The new court-appointed Justicialist Party (PJ) trustee Luis Barrionuevo held a press conference on Thursday to criticise the Mauricio Macri administration’s insensitivity toward poverty. Meanwhile, members of the Movimiento Evita party will reportedly form a coalition with Libres del Sur and a number of social-political organisations including Barrios de Pie, La Corriente Clasista y Combativa (CCC) and the Popular Economy Workers Confederation (CTEP).
The AFIP tax bureau on Thursday asked that businessman Cristóbal López and his partner Fabián De Sousa be placed on trial for evading fuel taxation to the tune of eight billion pesos, in complicity with former AFIP chief Ricardo Echegaray, who is also to be tried. Meanwhile, Prosecutor Germán Moldes asked Federal Judge Julián Ercolini to send López and De Sousa back to jail following their release last month. Yesterday, there were new developments in the investigation into alleged corruption in the tunnelling of the Sarmiento train line. See Page 8 for more.
The Lower House caucus of the ruling Cambiemos (Let’s Change) ruling coalition has agreed to back stripping one of its members, Chaco Radical Aída Ayala, of her parliamentary immunity so that she can face charges of money-laundering and tax evasion related to her time as mayor of the provincial capital of Resistencia. After pushing hard last year to bring Victory Front deputy Julio De Vido to trial for corruption in similar fashion, government parliamentarians reportedly felt that they could not afford to show any double standards.
After La Matanza bus-driver Leandro Alcaraz was slain by two criminals last weekend, his colleagues from 36 lines across Greater Buenos Aires called a 24-hour strike on Monday. In response Buenos Aires provincial Security Minister Cristian Ritondo promised to extend soft credits to bus companies to install security cameras in their vehicles.
Following the recent readmission of United States pork to the Argentine market (despite protests from local breeders), the first US-bound consignment of Argentine lemons in almost 20 years was shipped out from Tucumán on Wednesday. Argentina leads the world in lemon production with some 1.5 million tonnes (over 80 percent grown in Tucumán), of which upward of 12,000 tons is to be exported to the US with an estimated value of US$30 million.
President Mauricio Macri was this week named by Time magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world. Each of the nominees for the list are given a short profile. President Macri’s was written by Robert Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think-tank. Haass branded Macri a “political hybrid: pro-business but sensitive to popular concerns,” concluding that “Macri is off to a good start and shows no signs of having peaked.” The expert said that Macri finishing his mandate would be a great achievement.