Argentina started filling its new natural gas pipeline Tuesday, marking a big infrastructure feat and political victory that stands to save the country billions from energy imports amid a severe dollar shortage.
Government officials and corporate leaders celebrated the pipeline’s filling, which will take about 20 days to complete.
Named after former president Néstor Kirchner, the pipeline stretches 356 miles (573 kilometres) from the remote Patagonia region to Argentina’s cities and industry centres in the east. It was developed by state-owned Energía Argentina SA.
Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who oversaw the project’s final months and is seen as a potential presidential candidate in this year’s election, hailed the opening as a major savings opportunity. His ministry projects the pipeline will save Argentina US$1.7 billion from gas imports this year and another US$4 billion next year.
It also marks an accomplishment for Massa and other Peronist politicians facing a tough re-election bid this year against the backdrop of Argentina’s economic crisis. Annual inflation is now over 114 percent, the economy is expected to fall into recession this year and an acute shortage of US dollars at the Central Bank is stoking fears of a peso devaluation.
Massa took a swipe at the previous opposition-led government during a victory lap Tuesday.
“We made the impossible possible,” Massa wrote on Twitter. “This project was planned in 2015. It was stalled for years due to lack of strategic vision and courage.”
by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg