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ECONOMY | 21-08-2020 22:59

Government freezes TV, Internet and mobile phone prices until 2021

The government announced late Friday that  is extending a price freeze for TV, Internet and mobile service until the end of the year, deeming them “essential public services.”

The government announced late Friday that  is extending a price freeze for TV, Internet and mobile service until the end of the year, deeming them “essential public services.”

Announcing the move in a series of tweets, President Alberto Fernández said that Internet service, Pay TV and fixed and mobile telephone lines would be reclassified for public good.

"Through a DNU [decree of necessity and urgency] that will be published tonight, the national government will declare mobile and fixed telephony, internet services and pay TV as essential public services," read a statement from the Presidency.

With this decision "we guarantee access to the same [services] for everyone," proclaimed Fernández on Twitter.

The freeze means providers won’t be able to raise prices going forward without government approval, according to a statement sent after-hours Friday. Prices on those items had been frozen since May, with the ban set to expire at the end of the month.

The telecommunications freeze marks the government’s latest measure to contain prices. Inflation is running at 42 percent annually, and the nationwide lockdown to curb Covid-19 deepened the economic contraction. Argentina has already frozen prices on 2,000 consumer goods it also deems essential.

"In this way we are recovering regulatory tools that the previous government [led by former president Mauricio Macri, 2015-2019] took away from the State. The right of users and consumers is a constitutionally recognised right. Henceforth, there can be no increase without the prior state approval, "the Peronist leader tweeted.

"Education, access to knowledge, culture and communication are basic rights that we must preserve. That is why we have ordered that from now on there are inclusive plans of basic, universal and compulsory provision for those who have the least," he added.

“As we face the restrictions the pandemic imposes on us, nobody should have to give up part of their income to cover price hikes on those services,” said Fernández. “We’re guaranteeing access for everyone.”

According to official sources, firms will not be allowed to raise prices "without prior authorisation" from the State. "Inclusive universal and compulsory basic benefit plans" will also be launched for the most vulnerable sectors.

The telecommunications freeze marks the government’s latest measure to contain prices. Inflation is running at 42 percent annually, and the nationwide lockdown to curb Covid-19 deepened the economic contraction. Argentina has already frozen prices on 2,000 consumer goods it also deems essential.

Fernandez’s populist stance on telecom prices contrasts with recent comments by Economy Minister Martín Guzmán, who had hinted the country may move toward removing strict capital controls and would seek to renegotiate its payments to the IMF, said Bloomberg Economics’ Adriana Dupita.

“It will be hard to reconcile the insistence on this type of measure with the typical conditions embedded in IMF deals,” Dupita said.

– TIMES/AFP/BLOOMBERG

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