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ARGENTINA | 19-01-2024 15:52

White smoke for omnibus law? Changes to the bill coming, vote next Thursday

Ruling La Libertad Avanza party has accepted changes to the key areas of the bill: reduction of delegated powers, pensions, removal of YPF from the list to companies to be privatised and reduction to zero of duties for regional economies.

President Javier Milei's government reached an early agreement on Thursday evening with the opposition willing to dialogue after adding a series of corrections to the peaks of the omnibus bill being debated in the Chamber of Deputies.

Among the changes, which had been an essential condition suggested by the Radicals, Hacemos Coalición Federal and Innovación Federal, attached to the ruling party’s opinion are the reduction from two to one year of the powers delegated to the Executive Branch with a greater restriction of declared emergencies and the implementation of a new formula for pension mobility tied to the inflation rate (or the outright removal of that article to be discussed later in a different statute.

The removal of YPF from the list of state companies declared subject to privatisation was also agreed, a headline-making move, as was the reduction to zero of export duties applied to regional economies, and the archiving of the electoral reform.

The opposition had also asked the government to accept narrowing down the initiative to chapters linked to economic emergency, but on this score Francos’ and Caputo’s arms were not twisted and they left the changes in place in Justice, Education, Culture, Science, Health, as well as the elimination of the PASO primaries.

This was confirmed while the president of the Radical caucus, Rodrigo De Loredo was speaking to the accredited press, after taking part in a meeting at the office of Lower House Speaker Martín Menem, with Interior minister Guillermo Francos, and presidential advisor Santiago Caputo.

“It was a good meeting. We suggested our alternatives and our objections to the bill and the government was receptive,” the Radical lawmaker from Córdoba stated.

After this clear demonstration of pragmatism, something which seemed distant at some point, the ruling party is directing negotiations and might sign the majority opinion with the cooperation of the closest blocs of the opposition, which naturally include PRO.

The plenary debate of the General Legislation, Budget and Constitutional Affairs commissions will continue on Monday or Tuesday, and after the opinion is signed, the house will be called to hold sessions on Thursday 25, one day after the strike and demonstrations.

“They brought a list of topics. Now we’re waiting for the final draft of the bill,” said De Loredo before going into a meeting of his bloc to vote on the government’s proposal.

In turn, the head of the Hacemos Coalición Federal bloc, Miguel Pichetto, called the meeting with Executive officials as “good” and valued “the government’s attitude to find common ground”.

The man from Río Negro took part in a meeting with his peers from the space Cambio Federal Emilio Monzó, Nicolás Massot, Ricardo López Murphy, in addition to Florencio Randazzo (Hacemos por Nuestro País), Juan Manuel López (Coalición Cívica) and Pamela Calletti (Innovación Federal).

Massot was satisfied but warned that the specifics of the bill will only reach him on Sunday or Monday, and thus the final decision to attach the ruling party’s opinion will be made within the next few days.

PRO also took part in the meeting at Menem’s office, but both the head of the bloc, Cristian Ritondo, and María Eugenia Vidal, left through the back door without giving official statements to the accredited press installed at the office door to get testimonies.

 

The main changes in the 'Bases Law' bill

  • Delegation of powers: the government accepted the request to reduce from two years (with a possible extension of a further two years) to one year. Emergencies are reduced.
  • Pensions formula: the suspension of the current law without a replacement, as intended, is now off the menu. There are two options left. The first one is to introduce a new mobility formula adjusted for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and an update based on the inflation of the previous month. The other option is to remove the article on suspension of the pension mobility formula and postpone the discussion, in a separate statute.
  • Agro duties: soy duties stay at 33 percent, but export duties for regional economies are reduced to zero, which were 15 percent in the original bill.
  • Privatisation of state firms: the package of state companies subject to privatisation is maintained, but state energy YPF has been removed, which will thus remain a mixed economy corporation with a majority stake by the State. It was agreed that in case of any privatisation, the government must send the terms and conditions to a bicameral commission of Congress. In addition to YPF, the Radicals, Hacemos Coalición Federal and Innovación Federal want to prevent the privatisation of Banco Nación, ARSAT, YMAD and Nucleoeléctrica.
  • Electoral reform: the proposal to vote for candidates by one name is ruled out, which seriously hindered the representation of the smaller parties in the Chamber of Deputies. The current system is maintained.
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--TIMES/NA

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