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ECONOMY | 26-12-2023 16:23

Congress opens debate on Milei's bills to complement sweeping decree

Congress opened special sessions on Tuesday as debate opened on a series of bills designed to complement Javier Milei’s sweeping economic deregulation mega-decree.

Argentina's Congress opened special sessions on Tuesday called by President Javier Milei as debate opened on a series of bills designed to complement the libertarian leader’s sweeping economic deregulation mega-decree.

The moves are being resisted by labour federations, unions and the Peronist and left-wing opposition, who are seeking to have the decree declared unconstitutional in the courts.

"The deputies and senators will have to choose between supporting the change that the people have voted for or continuing to obstruct and put sticks in the wheel," Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni said at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

Milei’s decree and complementary legislative package is due to be debated until January 31.  It includes sweeping reforms to state functions, taxation and electoral law, among others.

But the main focus is on Milei’s controversial decree, which would affect more than 300 laws previously passed by Congress. Announcement of the reform package sparked street protests, strong reactions from the opposition and the call for a demonstration by the largest union organisations to demand that the courts declare it unconstitutional.

Tuesday also saw the official cancellation by decree of contracts for some 7,000 public employees in the framework of the reduction of state spending, which aims to slash the equivalent of five percent off Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Milei’s decree limits the right to strike, repeals the rent law and eliminates rules protecting workers and consumers from abusive price increases at a time when annual inflation exceeds 160 percent and poverty exceeds 40 percent.

It also removes caps on bank commissions and punitive rates, frees up private medical insurance firms to raise premiums, repeals a law that established quarterly increases in pensions and paves the way for the privatisation of public companies and the conversion of sports clubs into public limited companies.

The decree, against which the courts have already admitted a collective appeal by civil society groups, must be approved by Congress in its entirety, though it was not included in the initial agenda for the special sessions.

It will come into force on Friday, 10 days after it is signed, regardless of its analysis in Congress, which can only approve or invalidate it in its entirety, without modifying its content.

To reject it, both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate must vote against it.

Milei's far-right party La Libertad Avanza has 40 out of 257 deputies and seven out of 72 senators, while the opposition retains the first minority in both chambers.

The other forces are the three centre and right-wing parties in the Juntos por el Cambio coalition, which have the second minority, as well as a small representation of the left and other provincial groupings.



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