Friday, March 31, 2023

ARGENTINA | 06-01-2018 11:26

What we learned this week: Fares up, state-workers strike and chaos at the airports

Key stories from the last seven days.


Bus, suburban train and subway fares will all be going up as from next month, Transport Minister Guillermo Dietrich announced last Wednesday, with taxis, parking and VTV car licences all set to become costlier in the first half of this year. But there will also be discounts to benefit passengers making multiple bus rides or using multimodal transport (For more on the story of the week, see Page 4 onwards). Propert y prices jumped 12% in 2017 Greater access to mortgages in Argentina has sent property prices soaring well above the country’s 2017 annual inflation rate, a report released Thursday by Reporte Inmobiliario indicated. Property prices jumped 11.79 percent in terms of dollars and 29.8 percent in pesos, the latter rate being significantly above the 25 percent annual inflation registered for 2017, Clarín reported. Such growth in property prices is the most significant since 2012. The report looked at the sales prices of one-bedroom used apartments within Buenos Aires City and fixed the growth in the value of the dollar at an annual 16.5 percent. The average price of an apartment in Buenos Aires in November 2017 hit US$2,205 per square metre, the report indicated. Palermo continues to be the most expensive to buy a property, at an average US$3,115 per square metre. The neighbourhood of Constitución, meanwhile, is the cheapest with average property prices coming in at US$1,585 per square metre.


Hundreds of state workers protested downtown between the Obelisk and Plaza de Mayo on Thursday against 1,200 layoffs in the public sector at the close of 2017. The protesting workers belonged to the ATE union representing the more blue-collar state employees rather than the UPCN civil servants union. ATE leader Hugo Godoy said that the aim was “to construct a democratic people’s state.” The government has claimed that most of those made redundant were employed on limited contracts rather than being permanent employees. Argentina’s state payroll is estimated to number 3.9 million employees at national, provincial and municipal levels, or 18 percent of the total workforce. The Mauricio Macri administration, which aims to reduce the fiscal deficit  from 4.2 to 3.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product this year, plans to trim these numbers with a special emphasis on chronic absentees, the so-called “ñoquis.”


Margarita Stolbizer, the 2015 Progressives presidential candidate, announced that she will not be budging from her alliance with the Renewal Front’s Sergio Massa, even though their unsuccessful 1País senatorial run in Buenos Aires province last October ended with them both outside of Congress (their Lower House terms expired last month). Meanwhile Matías Tombolini, the 1País Lower House candidate in this city in October (also unsuccessful), has agreed to head City Hall’s Economic and Social Council under Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.


The first trade union to reach a collectivebargaining agreement this year was also at the heart of the week’s most disruptive labour dispute. On Monday Intercargo airport baggage-handlers began a work-to-rule measure which by Wednesday was causing three-hour delays and stranding thousands of passengers – compulsory conciliation was then called as chaos spread. The stoppage was against being docked a day’s pay for joining the CTA protest against pension reform on December 18. Aerolíneas Argentinas and Austral, with their own services, were able to operate normally. Early in the week Intercargo had reached agreement with trade unions on a 17 percent wage increase for 2018. In other aviation/tourism news, the duty-free allowance has now been raised to US$500, allowing people to pick up more bottles of booze, KitKat multipacks and fancy perfumes on their way through airports.


Despite the withdrawal of the United States from the search for the missing ARA San Juan submarine, Russian participation is set to continue – at least until President Mauricio Macri meets his Moscow counterpart Vladimir Putin later this month. But both the families of the lost crew and the Argentine Navy are already looking ahead to alternatives. While seeing in the New Year together at a solidarity dinner at the Antártida Hotel in Mar del Plata, relatives floated the idea of bringing in private expertise (such as the team which found the wreck of the Titanic), while later in the week at a press briefing Navy spokesman Captain Enrique Balbi said that the force was ready to explore this idea. The Navy also confirmed this week it will continue paying wages to the families of the 44 crewmembers who are assumed to have lost their lives in the tragedy. The San Juan disappeared off the Chubut coast in mid- November.


Over half of those detained for crimes against humanity have been granted house arrest, judicial sources have revealed. To be exact, 549 out of a total of 1,038 are out of jail at present. Last year 593 new cases were lodged with 200 convictions (two-thirds of which are under appeal). Yet the house arrest issue is not limited to those who violated human rights under the 1976-83 military dictatorship – last week longshoremen’s union leader Omar “Caballo” Suárez, who is charged with extortion, was allowed home from prison on health grounds and is now seeking to enter hospital for medical tests.


The ice-breaker Almirante Irizar is back in action after undergoing repairs for a full decade – on Wednesday evening it set sail for the Antarctic from Argentina’s southernmost port of Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) after leaving Buenos Aires on Boxing Day.

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