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ARGENTINA | 30-05-2024 14:02

Argentina bonds climb as Milei deregulation plan moves forward

Members of Senate general, budget and constitutional committees approve sending the so-called 'omnibus' bill to all senators.

Argentina’s sovereign bonds rallied after President Javier Milei’s main legislative attempt to deregulate the economy moved closer to a decisive Senate vote after weeks of stalemate.

Members of the general, budget and constitutional committees approved sending the so-called 'omnibus' bill to all senators. Lawmakers achieved “dictamen,” or consensus, Wednesday night on putting it to a floor vote in the opposition-controlled Senate, which by law is at least a week away. Budget Committee members also agreed to do the same for the accompanying fiscal bill.

Argentina’s dollar bonds climbed across the curve Thursday, posting some of the best gains among its emerging-market peers. Notes due in 2046 advanced roughly one cent to trade just below 46 cents on the dollar, gaining for a third straight session, according to indicative pricing data compiled by Bloomberg.

The bills, first introduced as a single package in December, passed the lower house in late April after being significantly watered down. They went to the relevant upper chamber committees on May 7, but have been bogged down in negotiations until now. The package still contains a modified chapter with incentives for foreign investors in large projects like mining, known as RIGI.

Milei’s party holds only seven of the 72 seats in the Senate, while the main Peronist opposition holds 33. That means the libertarian president had to broker deals with the pro-business PRO party and members of two other moderate groups to get it passed, underscoring a pragmatism long sought by foreign investors.

Milei was hoping to get the package approved and sign a pact with the nation’s governors by May 25, a national holiday, but ended up holding a solo event instead. Amid the stalemate, the president fired his Cabinet chief, Nicolas Posse, replacing him with former Interior minister Guillermo Francos. 

Francos spent his first day on the job Tuesday discussing the bill with Senate caucus leaders and heralded the negotiations alongside Vice-President Victoria Villarruel to get the bill through.

Lawmakers agreed Wednesday that Milei should have expanded executive powers on administrative, financial, economic and energy matters, as well as the ability to dissolve dozens of special-purpose federal government funds. They also allowed the privatisation of nearly a dozen firms, including airline Aerolíneas Argentinas, public utilities, train and postal service companies, and the expansion of the income tax base.

Lawmakers negotiated some changes to the reform package’s sections on income taxes — like raising the minimum taxable income to accommodate constituents from the better-earning southern Patagonia region — and adding some exclusions to a tax amnesty meant to encourage the declaration of taxable assets abroad, according to an early copy of the legislation seen by Bloomberg News. The proposal also still contains a labour reform Milei considers essential to encourage companies to hire.

If the drafts are approved on the floor, the bills would head back to the lower house Chamber of Deputies for it to accept any amendments before going into effect. If successful, Milei will have more power to cut expensive subsidies, eliminate costly government bodies and attract foreign investments to balance the country’s budget and restart a tanking economy.

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by Manuela Tobias & Kevin Simauchi, Bloomberg

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