Notable stories from the last seven days.
Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof was in the limelight during much of the week over his bid to update provincial taxation to last year’s arrival, a drive stubbornly resisted by a Juntos por el Cambio opposition denying him quorum, but by the end of the week he seemed to have cleared the way to opening debate following meetings with opposition mayors. (See Page 4)
At the close of the year last Tuesday the government issued Decree 103/2019 deferring the updating of liquid fuel and carbon dioxide emission taxation from this month to next. The move was seen as an attempt to appease the sector, which had been dismayed by the decision of President Alberto Fernández last weekend to halt the five percent increase in petrol and diesel prices ordered by YPF chairman Guillermo Nielsen as from this past week – an increase which Nielsen and others view as essential to attract overseas investment into Vaca Muerta shale and other energy sources. (See Page 5)
The six-month freeze of public transport fares ordered last December 27 had finally been scaled down to four months by last Thursday. BRAZIL SURPLUS Thanks to devaluation and shrinking imports, Argentina registered a 10-digit trade surplus with Brazil, its first in 17 years, while the giant neighbour has posted its lowest trade surplus since 2015.
IVA BACK ON FOOD ITEMS
The government on Thursday restored IVA value-added taxation on basic food ítems, thus reversing the elimination ordered by then President Mauricio Macri last August in the wake of his disastrous PASO primary performance. In partial compensation for the return of the 21 percent levy, companies will generally be allowed to raise their prices by seven percent on the affected items with a few exceptions – various products not considered essential food items are allowed the full 21 percent while milk in liquid form (although not other dairy produce) cannot go up in price at all. As 2019 drew to a close the government renewed the Ahora 12 instalment plan for the first quarter of the New Year in a move clearly designed to boost domestic consumption. In the previous week the government reached an ambitious wage-price agreement with business groups, trade unions and social activists to revive industry and create jobs. (See Page 5)
OUT OF ‘SELECTIVE DEFAULT’
Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency took Argentina out of the “selective default” category as 2019 drew to a close, promoting it from SD/D to CC/C, but maintained a negative outlook on the country’s long-term future with regard to its sovereign debt, describing a non-compliance with payments further ahead as a “virtual certainty.” S&P attributed the improved rating to paying up the Bopomo bond on December 23 and holding various successful debt auctions on the local market. They also pointed out that debt servicing continues to be an integral part of the Alberto Fernández administration’s strategy for now.
THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...
Mixed courtroom fortunes for the Kirchner family last week – Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio last Monday sent Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and various businessmen in the case probing charges of irregularities in the fixing of public works contracts during Kirchnerite presidencies. But her son Máximo was at the same time cleared by Federal Judge María Romilda Servini de Cubría over charges concerning illegal campaign financing, together with Interior Minister Eduardo “Wado” de Pedro and deputy Andrés “Cuervo” Larroque, also the secretary-general of the La Cámpora youth group. (See Page 11)
NISMAN BACK ON AGENDA
President Alberto Fernández found himself in an involuntary contradiction on Wednesday when he concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to justify turning special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s 2015 death into a murder trial at the same time as a Netflix documentary was being screened quoting his doubts as to suicide. The comments come just days after reports that the Security Ministry was seeking to re-open the case (something legally and constitutionally impossible), sparking reaction from the late prosecutor’s family.
MALVINAS CLAIM RENEWED
President Alberto Fernández marked yesterday’s 187th anniversary of British occupation of the Malvinas aboard the ice-breaker Irízar, where he reaffirmed Argentine sovereignty over the archipelago. The Foreign Ministry also released a like-minded statement.
NEW MAN AT BOCA
Miguel Angel Russo, briefly the Boca Juniors coach in 2007, returned to the club yesterday as the specific choice of the club´s new authorities Jorge Amor Ameal and Juan Román Riquelme (especially the latter). Russo’s most immediate problems will include deciding the future of ageing stars Carlos Tevez and Italian import Daniele De Rossi (who helped win the 2006 World Cup). Their replacements (Colombia’s Edwin Cardona and Peru’s Paolo Guerrero have been mentioned) have yet to be defined.
Colombian President Iván Duque revealed on Monday that River Plate star Juan Fernando Quintero spoke to the new Colombian Army Commander-in-Chief General Eduardo Zapateiro about his father’s disappearance almost a quarter-century ago, to which then Captain Zapateiro is linked personally as the missing conscript’s commanding officer at the time. Quintero’s family has long been suing Colombia’s Defence Ministry and Army for damages.
NEW YEAR, NEWBORN
Martina (pictured above), the first baby of 2020 (arriving in the very first minute of the year), was born to convict Fernanda Micaela, 22, who was transferred to a La Plata hospital from Los Hornos prison to give birth.
LABOUR MINISTER ANNOUNCES WAGE BOOST
Labour Minister Claudio Moroni yesterday confirmed a lump sum 4,000-peso increase for private-sector workers with 3,000 pesos falling due with this month’s wage and the rest in February. It is not considered a bonus since it is to be incorporated into the basic salary. Next week will be the turn of public-sector workers. According to Moroni’s calculations, this extra payment will permit the lowest-paid fifth of the workforce or some 1.3 million workers to regain the purchasing-power lost last year.