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ECONOMY | 28-12-2023 00:24

Milei blitzes Argentina’s Congress with far-ranging reform bill

President Javier Milei sends wide-ranging omnibus reform package to Congress; Measures range from eliminating Argentina’s primary elections and charging university tuition to privatising 41 state-owned companies.

President Javier Milei sent a wide-ranging omnibus reform package to Congress Wednesday, expanding his shock therapy approach beyond economic policy into myriad aspects of government. 

Spanning hundreds of pages, Milei’s state reform package should face pushback in Congress where his party holds a minority and even the biggest coalition wouldn’t give him the necessary votes.

Measures range from eliminating Argentina’s primary elections and charging university tuition to privatising 41 state-owned companies and strengthening Milei’s economic policy powers throughout his term. 

Critics wasted no time lambasting the legislation. Former economy minister Martín Guzmán, who was behind Argentina’s US$44.5-billion agreement with the International Monetary Fund that passed Congress in 2022, criticised Milei for attempting to unwind that measure, among others. 

“The purpose of that law is that never again could a government in office brutally increase external debt with private creditors or the IMF,” Guzmán wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Milei’s “law would make it possible again,” he said.

The omnibus reform bill comes days after Milei published a sprawling decree that goes into effect unless Congress acts to overturn it by early January. More broadly, the omnibus legislation shows the far-reaching overhaul Milei seeks after announcing shock economic policies, such as sharp spending cuts, lifting import controls and devaluing the peso by more than 50 percent. 

Milei is already meeting resistance to his rapid-fire approach. Opposition lawmakers from the Peronist party seek to throw a wrench into Milei’s plans, while powerful labour unions rallied outside the Supreme Court Wednesday to protest Milei’s decree. Wednesday’s marches followed protests last week. 

Milei counters that he must act fast to keep the country’s economic crisis from getting any worse. 

Labour unions and Peronists “can’t accept that they lost? They can’t accept that people chose something else?” Milei said in a TV interview Tuesday night. “Evidently, they’re not conscious about the seriousness of the situation.” 

by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg

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