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ARGENTINA | 28-02-2020 13:00

Bill to trim pension privileges of judges, diplomats clears lower house

Opposition walks out in anger as Fernández administration’s reform targeting judges and diplomats is pushed through Chamber of Deputies – with a little help from Daniel Scioli…

The government pushed through its bill to trim the pensions of judges and diplomats on Thursday amid controversy, following a walkout by the opposition.

Seeking to deny quorum, the opposition claimed that it had been achieved irregularly via the presence of Daniel Scioli, whom they deem an ex-deputy. 

Scioli, a former presidential candidate and governor of Buenos Aires Province, has been chosen by Alberto Fernández for the post of ambassador to Brazil. 

However, in a move opposition lawmakers claimed was akin to skullduggery, lower house Speaker Sergio Massa argued that while Scioli had resigned from his seat, his resignation had yet to be formally accepted in parliament – this was scheduled for Monday, with Scioli flying off to Brazil the next day.

The veteran Peronist has already visited Brasilia and met with President Jair Bolsonaro, though Scioli argued Thursday night that he has not formally been appointed to the role, saying a notice to that effect has not appeared in the Official Gazette. Local reports differed as to whether he had presented his credentials yet.

In the end, the bill was unanimously approved by 128 of those present with two Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores (FIT) deputies abstaining. 

There was only one amendment, extending privileged pensions to senior judicial employees in response to lobbying by their trade union.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Calculations

The reform calculates the pensions of judges and diplomats on the basis of 82 percent of their average salary over the last 10 years, and not 82 percent of the last salary as at present, effectively reducing their retirement benefits by up to 40 percent. Their contributions are also hiked under the bill from 12 to 19 percent of their salaries.  

On Wednesday the bill cleared a plenary committee meeting following an extensive debate, obtaining majority approval for going to the floor of the Chamber of Deputies the next day. The government accepted minor amendments during the committee stage.

While Congress was debating the bill, the Labour Ministry released some hard data on the privileged pensions of the judiciary.

Their special pension fund is supported by a total of 17,622 members of the judicial profession making an average monthly contribution of 32,609 pesos out of an average salary of 271,742 pesos.

The judicial profession is a rare case of the average retirement benefit topping the average salary since the pensions of the 6,983 beneficiaries average out at 272,099 pesos, peaking at 770,128 pesos. 

No less than 486 of these pensions top the half-million mark. By the end of last year the deficit of the special fund had reached 8.29 billion pesos or 13.3 percent.

Despite such excessively high figures, deputies opposing the bill argue that it could end up accelerating the retirement of half the Judiciary rather than risk losing their current pension scheme.

– TIMES/NA

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