Cabinet Chief Juan Manzur has told senators across Argentina’s political spectrum that inflation is the national government’s “main problem” and that tampering down runaway price hikes will “not be solved overnight.”
Prices in Argentina increased by more than 58 percent over the last 12 months in Argentina – one of the highest rates in the world. With some experts now forecasting an annualised rate of more than 70 percent in 2022, Manzur admitted that inflation is “a long-standing phenomenon” and that the process of tackling it would be “gradual and progressive.”
Eight-and-a-half months after taking office as Alberto Fernández's chief-of-staff, Manzur on Thursday delivered his first management report before the Senate, responding to some of the more than 900 questions submitted in writing from lawmakers from both the ruling coalition and the opposition.
Defending the government’s handling of the economy, Manzur explained that Argentina’s economy had grown 10.3 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year, underlining the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on activity.
"The monthly index of economic activity from [the] INDEC [national statistics bureau] has 13 consecutive months of year-on-year growth. In the first quarter of this year, growth accumulated at a rate of 6.1 percent. Not only is the economy recovering, but also the previous levels, where we were in 2019," declared the official.
Moving onto inflation, Manzur admitted that runaway prices were “the main problem we have to deal with.”
Outlining the pillars of the government’s “gradual” strategy to tame inflation, he emphasised that the problem would not “be solved from one day to the next.”
In parallel, the Cabinet chief submitted a report from his office running to 856 pages, which included responses to 915 written questions in total.
During his presentation, Manzur also defended the government’s debt restructuring deal with the International Monetary Fund, saying it was necessary in order to prevent further economic turmoil. He said that, to date, there had been “no modification of the goals" outlined in the new programme.
“I came here to explain the reasons why this agreement was necessary. We had to chase away the spectre of default," he recalled, adding pointedly that the current Peronist government "would never have assumed such a level of debt" if it had been in power in 2018.
Anticipating criticism from the Kirchnerite sector of the ruling coalition, Manzur declared that the programme had not “been imposed” by the multilateral lender and that officials had “tried as much as possible to make this a proposal of our government within the framework of the public policies outlined."
Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who heads the Senate, departed the chamber before Manzur began discussing the IMF deal. The former president is known to have been opposed to the agreement.