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News > Argentina

Argentina: Senate Approves Emergency and Social Solidarity Law

  • Senators meet vote on an emergency economic bill at the National Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina Dec. 20, 2019.

    Senators meet vote on an emergency economic bill at the National Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina Dec. 20, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 December 2019
Opinion

"This law will allow Argentina to move forward because the situation is really serious," the Committee on Budget and Finance president said.

After a 12-hour session that ended at Saturday dawn, the Argentine Senate approved with 41 votes in favor, 23 against and one abstention, the "Social Solidarity and Productive Reactivation" Bill, which was sent by President Alberto Fernandez as part of an emergency plan to resolve the economic and social crisis inherited from Mauricio Macri's administration (2015-2019).

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The Solidarity Law gives the Executive branch special powers until Dec. 31, 2020, so that it can resolve the national emergency that exists in the areas of production, finance, public income, pensions, basic services, health care, and social protection.

"This law will allow Argentina to move forward because the situation is really serious," the Committee on Budget and Finance president Carlos Caserio said.  "The emergency declaration is the way to get out of this problem quickly."

However, the "Together for Change" bench, which is the right-wing coalition that supported former president Macri's neoliberal policies, described the approval of the bill as "a sad day" for the Republic.

"This law ignores institutions and makes Congress a useless tool for consensus building," the right-wing Senator Esteban Bullrich said.​​​​​​​

"While Argentina votes the Emergency Law, while we see how to get out of the sinister crisis in which Macri put us, the former president travels to Qatar to watch the final soccer match of the Club World Cup. This guy can't have worse timing."

Among other things, the new law will freeze public services ​​​​​​​fares for 180 days and create the ​​​​​​​"Country Tax", which will be charged at purchases of foreign currencies, air tickets, and tourist packages to travel abroad. Expenses made in a foreign currency will also be taxed.

Also, taxes paid by agricultural exports could increase by up to 33 percent, a measure that will force large soy producers to contribute to solving the macroeconomic crisis​​​​​​​.

The Solidarity law, however, was not approved without changes. Argentinean Senators decided that pensions of the executive and judicial authorities will continue to be part of a “special regime”.

In response to their decision triggered, Fernandez announced that he will extend the extraordinary parliamentary sessions period so that lawmakers "analyze a bill to end privileged pensions."​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

"On Friday, in an Argentina that stands up, the new president and the Social Development Minister, Daniel Arroyo, presented the Comprehensive Plan Argentina Against Hunger, a social program aimed at meeting the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable population, in the context of the social crisis that Macri left behind."

Previously, Argentina's president issued a decree for the Chambers of Deputies and Senators to hold sessions from Dec. 13 to Dec. 31.

The goal is to "work to build a society that provides equal opportunities for all," Fernandez stressed.​​​​​​​

As a result of the economic policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the previous government, Argentina is going through a deep recession since April 2018, which meant a 3.1 percent decrease in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

This South American country's economy is also operating amidst the problems triggered by an inflation rate of 55 percent, a public debt exceeding 100 percent of GDP, and a poverty rate affecting 40 percent of the population.

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