Friday, July 19, 2024

ARGENTINA | 07-09-2023 13:54

Bi-monetarism, no currency controls, state trimmed – Patricia Bullrich unveils plan to ‘order’ Argentina

Opposition presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich presents "irreversible" reform package that would slash government ministries, remove currency controls, introduce bi-monetarism and cut subsidies for Argentina's state airline.

Opposition presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich has unveiled her plan to bring “order” to Argentina as she seeks to regain momentum ahead of the general election.

The manifesto, "Un país ordenado," proposes what the Juntos por el Cambio hopeful describes as an "irreversible" reform package that would slash government ministries and change rules on collective wage bargaining talks.

The 67-year-old also wants to introduce bi-monetarism, remove strict currency controls on the purchase of foreign currency, cut subsidies for the Aerolíneas Argentinas state airline and “end inflation” that is currently running at more than 110 percent per annum.

Bullrich, a former security minister in Mauricio Macri’s 2015-2019 Cambiemos government, needs to gather support behind her if she is to make it to the second-round run-off in the October 22 presidential election. Her coalition’s candidates took 28 percent of the presidential primaries on August 13 and polling shows Bullrich will find it difficult to overtake libertarian frontrunner Javier Milei, who took 29.86 percent.

Presentation of Bullrich’s electoral platform comes just days after the presidential candidate named six spokespersons for key policy areas, among them Carlos Melconian, who would be her economy minister if elected.

Bullrich said this week that her point man for economic matters had a plan that “has its feet on the ground” and “focuses on production and employment.”

"Argentina has a way out: it has to put its accounts in order, it has to have balance and then it will be able to lower inflation, return money to the pockets of workers, remove the ‘cepo’ [currency controls]," said the PRO leader.


Electoral platform

Announcing her key policies at an event for the press this week, Bullrich said her economic priorities are to “free and boost production,” carry out “comprehensive state reform” and “reorganise the economy to put an end to inflation.”

To achieve these goals, the former security minister says she would “bi-monetise” the economy, thereby allowing the peso and dollar to circulate legally and coexist indistinctly for consumption, production, savings and investment.

The plan is notably different to Milei’s proposed plan of full dollarisation, a proposal that has garnered a lot of attention in recent months.

Elimination of the ‘cepo’ – the local name for Argentina’s complicated system of strict currency controls – also tops the list, along with the removal of all taxes producing little or no revenue to boost exports. So-called ‘retenciones’ (duties on regional economies and agriculture) and export quotas are to be targeted too.

Another commitment is an immediate "zero deficit" that will go hand in hand with the absolute autonomy of the Central Bank.

Moving onto state reform, Bullrich proposes to halve the number of government ministries (currently there are 18, which portfolios to go unspecified) and reduce the number of officials to “the minimum number of political posts necessary for the fulfilment of goals.”

Argentina’s state airline Aerolíneas Argentinas would face change, eventually losing all government subsidies "after a short transition period” and the production of a full audit and “business plan for self-sustainability.”

Unlike Milei, Bullrich gives no promises as the privatisation of state firms, only saying that a “rationalisation” process is needed.

Leaning into her hard-line image and past as a security minister, the Juntos por el Cambio hopeful vows to deal with picketers and demonstrations, putting “an end to blockades, occupations and illegal roadblocks" in order to ensure people's right to movement. To this end, "a legal framework for the orderly conduct of demonstrations" will need to be defined, she adds.

There are also plans to lower the age of criminal responsibility and commitments to tackling drug-trafficking firmly, including with the deployment of federal security officers and the Armed Forces in “critical areas such as Rosario and the Conurbano" of Greater Buenos Aires.


Other proposals

With a nod to runaway prices, economic turmoil and the 39 percent of the country living below the poverty line, Bullrich vows to turn social welfare programmes into unemployment insurance. 

The Potenciar Trabajo programme, which reaches around 1.3 million adults “will be converted from the first day of government into temporary unemployment insurance," reads the manifesto. In order to receive it, beneficiaries will have to "demonstrate monthly that they have looked for work, attended an educational institution or received training at a professional training institute.”

Bullrich also promises to modify labour policy, facilitating the negotiation of wage agreements by company and generating new collective agreements that are “more flexible and in line with the situation of the labour market.” 

Notably, the opposition hopeful does not refer to her policy on severance pay. By contrast, Milei has said he would replace it with unemployment insurance.

Bullrich goes on to emphasise the importance of education, saying it would be declared an “essential service” with 190 days of classes guaranteed. The right to strike would be limited, as it does not stand “ above the right of children to learn.”

Finally, the 67-year-old right-winger makes a commitment to stick to obligations outlined in the Paris Agreement on climate change – a marked step from Milei, who failed to mention the environment in his own electoral manifesto.



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