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ARGENTINA | 28-09-2023 15:00

Javier Milei’s team wobbles on candidate's toughest proposals

Dollarising and eliminating federal revenue-sharing, an educational voucher, the “union caste” and closing down the CONICET National Scientific and Technical Research Council – many points the outspoken libertarian candidate suggested as essential are now in doubt. Has his proximity to power changed the setting?

A budgetary “chainsaw”. The dollar as the single currency. Eliminating federal revenue-sharing. Doing away with trade unions and the national CONICET scientific research council. The harshest proposals put forward by Javier Milei during his campaign prior to the PASO primaries which in the last few weeks have been ruled out or moderated by his main leaders, who should put these ideas into practice if he wins the election.

In Argentina the theorem of late Radical deputy Raúl Baglini is already popular, as he pointed out that the sensitivity of the proposals of a party or political leader are directly proportional to their chances of coming to power. The closer they are to the Casa Rosada, the further away their original or more disruptive proposals become. This seems to apply now to the libertarian candidate and his closest circle, although the latest polls show a runoff as the most likely scenario.

The most recent surprise was eliminating federal revenue-sharing. They are the taxes collected by the federal state and then distributed to the provinces. 

“I want to give the provinces back their autonomy. We have to move forward and do away with federal revenue-sharing. This is called fiscal correspondence. You spend based on what you collect. The state should not be in the middle. Formosa is a disaster because the state is everywhere. It makes it unproductive,” Milei said 30 days ago in an interview with Alejandro Fantino. This proposal was a hobby-horse for the libertarian and one of his most radical when it comes to taxes.

Guillermo Francos, his pick for Interior minister if he wins, dismissed it altogether:

“Federal revenue-sharing is prescribed by the Constitution, so it can’t just be repealed,” said the veteran politician on Wednesday morning.

“What Javier suggests is to change the system to make provinces the ones who collect and are responsible for expenditure. Javier doesn’t propose to eliminate revenue-sharing, but to turn the system around,” he added. Regardless of economic theory, Francos will be the man who must put this into practice.

In its electoral platform, La Libertad Avanza promised “dollarisation of the economy.” The idea worked as a slogan for the campaign, although its application was never specified, and Javier Milei’s advisors spoke of different bills. Over the last few days, his main player in this matter, Emilio Ocampo, said the peso “will be gradually eliminated by the people, not the government.”

“The monetary reform proposed by Milei is based on freedom. Continuing to cling to the idea that the state must hold the monopoly of the currency is absurd. We propose the freedom to choose the currency everyone wishes to use,” Ocampo tweeted. This idea is ultimately similar to what is suggested by Juntos por el Cambio, pointing to a “bi-monetarism” between pesos and dollars, already legal tender.

Educational vouchers were another of Milei’s most controversial slogans. In his written platform, it is the first reform of the system: “An educational cheque and voucher system.” This is the opposite of what his Buenos Aires Province gubernatorial candidate Carolina Píparo suggested, since she dismissed it: “A priori, we’re not thinking of implementing the voucher system.”

“We’re starting from way behind in education because third-grade children don’t know how to write, add or subtract,” she said. “Our first plan is very basic: literacy. Once we can move forward with that, technical schools, a secondary school which at least in the last year provides more tools, we can think about implementing a pilot programme in some city.”

As for trade  unions, the written platform stated: “To promote the temporary limitation of union terms of office.” Months later, after his alliance with Luis Barrionuevo and agreements with Gerardo Martínez, both veteran trade unionists, "I’m a different branch, I don’t have to meddle (with unions). That’s their problem. Let them hold their elections and lose and settle it with their workers,” he said on September 14, changing his original idea.

“CONICET out!” Screaming and holding a board eliminating areas of the State on his Instagram page, the presidential candidate railed against the National Scientific and Technical Research Council. In other words, to privatise it.

“I’ve already defined who’s to lead the research office. We’ll name it afterwards. We’ll change the name to clean it up (…) my intention is for it to be headed by Daniel Salomone.”

Days later, Salomone himself said on the radio: “I’m a scientist. I’d tell scientists to be at ease. We’ll do lots of things to their benefit, apart from scholarships, which are very limited in terms of job opportunities.”

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Ramón Indart

Ramón Indart

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