President Mauricio Macri called for calm and understanding on Monday, as his government attempts to pull itself — and the country— out of an economic crisis which is threatening the short- and medium-term viability of his pro-market economic policies.
The president described the country's current economic situation as "an emergency" and announced the temporary restoration of a series of export duties.
Argentina is one of the world's biggest exporters of corn and soy oil. Addressing rich agricultural exporters who will face export taxes, he said: "We know its a bad tax, but I ask you to undertstand that it's an emergency."
CABINET CHANGES, POVERTY
In a pre-recorded online speech, Macri announced he would slash the size of his government and conceded that poverty in Argentina would inevitably rise in the coming months as a result of the slump in the value of the Argentine peso.
The dollar opened trading at around 37 pesos on Monday morning.
Sources told Perfil that the ministries which will be affected are Science and Technology, Culture, Energy, Agroindustry, Health, Tourism, Environment, Labour and Modernisation.
"I know how you feel because I am feeling the same", Macri said in his opening remarks. Uncharacteristically, and perhaps as a sign of the stress he is under, Macri seemed slightly emotional during his speech. He even referred to his 13-day kidnapping in 1991 at the hands of extortionists.
"These have been the worst five months of my life aside from my kidnapping", he said.
"We know that this devaluation [of the Argentine peso] is going increase poverty", Macri said. "We are going to strengthen food programmes across the country".
"We will overcome the crisis by taking care of the most needy," promising "increased allocations, food programmes and price caps on some commodoties."
Other programmes like the Universal Child Payment and the Precios Ciudados system, which controls prices for basic food and household items, will be fortified, he announced.
'I HAVE ENOUGH STRENGTH'
The head of state also urged people to consider the adverse international context that his government has faced as it attempts to address Argentina's fiscal deficit. He cited the trade war between China and the United States, the spike in international fuel prices, and the follow-on effects of changes in US interest rates. He also pointed to Argentina's drought.
"We must confront a fundamental problem: to not spend more than we have, to make efforts to balance the state's accounts," he said.
"This has been a difficult path but it's the real path, a long-term one", he said. "We all have to cede something if we want to move forward", he added.
Macri took aim at his opponents, many of whom have seized on the government's perceived weakness since the huge slump in the value of the peso on Thursday to insist it has lost its legitimacy to govern.
"I have enough strength and I am here for you all", he urged. "I need your commitment to face up to fear mongers".