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ARGENTINA | 24-12-2023 10:07

Milei calls special Congress sessions over economic reform plan

President Javier Milei orders Argentina’s Congress to stage extraordinary sessions from next week to discuss his controversial sweeping economic reform package.

President Javier Milei has ordered Argentina’s Congress to hold extraordinary sessions over the summer break to discuss his controversial sweeping economic reform package.

The government has scheduled emergency sessions for December 26, immediately after Christmas, through January 31, for lawmakers to debate Milei’s plans to deregulate the economy.

Milei himself issued the call late Friday. It comes after a week of protests by labour unions, left-wing groups, renters and ordinary citizens who reject the reforms outlined in a presidential decree issued by the president. 

The president’s ‘mega-decree,’ published Thursday morning, is an attempt to change or scrap more than 300 regulations and rules.

Among the reforms, the text repeals the legislation on renting, which would abolish the established price ceiling and allow landlords to charge in US dollars. It also eliminates some worker protections and laws that shield consumers from abusive price increases, at a time when inflation exceeds 160 percent per year and the poverty level has surpassed 40 percent.

A number of civic groups on Saturday filed a judicial motion to have the mega-decree declared unconstitutional, which could end up before the Supreme Court. 

Lower courts are already working on their appeal.

Milei's "chainsaw plan" to cut state spending – he waved around a working chainsaw while on the campaign trail this year – has triggered a series of street protests against the government over the past week. 

Impromptu ‘cacerolazo’ pot-banging protests have sprung up across the country as citizens show their anger.

The influential CGT umbrella union grouping has called a demonstration for Wednesday in front of the courts in rejection of the plans.

Other aspects of the decree include an end to automatic pension increases, restrictions on the right to strike, and the easing away from price caps for private health services. It also liberalises rules on bank fees and punitive rates for debt.

Congress has 10 days to approve or reject the decree in its entirety, with no possibility of a line-item veto.

To overturn the decree, majorities in both houses of Congress must vote it down. If lawmakers fail to take action, the decree comes into force on December 29.  

Milei’s government has also submitted bills to redefine and lower income tax (‘ganancias’) thresholds to increase income, sweeping modifications to the electoral law and state reforms. Among the plans are a move to scrap Argentina’s PASO primary elections.

Milei's party, La Libertad Avanza, has 40 of the 257 deputies and seven of 72 senators, while now in opposition, Peronism retains the largest minority in both houses.

 

– TIMES/AFP
 

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