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ECONOMY | 20-04-2018 10:01

Utility price tension: Gov’t agrees to allow winter pause on gas bill payments

Two key government allies, the UCR Radical Party and lawmaker Elisa Carrio, forced the Macri administration to address the issue of utility prices internally. Despite the announcement, there were outbursts of pot-banging protests Thursday evening across Argentina.

The Mauricio Macri administration has agreed to implement a payment plan for gas consumers. The plan will allow consumers to postpone their gas bill payments during the cold winter months when consumption skyrockets.

The decision was made during a meeting held Thursday at Government House among Macri officials and the leaders of smaller parties allied to the government in its Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition.

“The only thing that is going to happen is the postponement of bill payments”, leader of the Radical Party (UCR) minority bloc in the Lower House, Mario Negri, told reporters.

“What we agreed to with the government was the postponement of gas bill payments between May and August, which are the months that register the most consumption. Consumers will be able to pay these in three instalments during summer”, he explained.

“What we are not going to do is to drain the State of funds, we cannot return to he past”, Negri added, taking aim at the former Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration for its high levels of public spending, which included multi-billion-peso utility subsidies.

Consumer gas prices in Argentina will rise 30 to 40 percent from April.

AN INTERNAL ISSUE

A special session called by the Peronist opposition in the Lower House failed Wednesday to reach the quorum needed to debate a bill to freeze price hikes.

It was a win for the government but the tension surrounding rising utility prices —which included outbursts of bot-banging Wednesday and Thursday evening in Argentine cities— saw the UCR and lawmaker for Buenos Aires City, Elisa Carrió, force the Macri administration to address the issue internally.

On Thursday, Negri denied that the meeting had been an attempt for the Radicals to reaffirm their authority within the Cambiemos coalition.

“It did not even cross my mind”, he said, responding to queries about party president Alfredo Cornejo’s request that the UCR have more participation in policy making.

“We might make mistakes but for two years we have been accompanying the government. Cambiemos is absolutely solid in Congress”, he said.

-TIMES

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