Saturday, July 13, 2024

ECONOMY | 20-12-2023 22:38

Javier Milei outlines chainsaw deregulation plan for Argentina’s economy

President plans to strike down or modify at least 300 pieces of “collectivist” legislation that he claims have “impeded, hindered an stopped” the country’s growth.

President Jaiver Milei unveiled his sweeping reform package for Argentina’s economy on Wednesday evening, revealing he would use a series of emergency decrees to strike down or amend more than 300 pieces of legislation.

The libertarian leader, speaking 10 days after he was inaugurated as head of state, outlined his ambitious plan in a ‘Cadena Nacional’ nationwide broadcast from the Salón Blanco of the Casa Rosada.

Among the changes are the repeal of at least seven laws previously passed by Congress, including legislation governing the rental prices of properties and the supply of goods at shops.

Milei also announced a "modernisation of labour legislation to facilitate the process of creating real jobs" and a series of other deregulatory measures affecting tourism, pharmaceuticals, wine production and foreign trade.

The libertarian leader further wants to strip the Constitution of articles which block the privatisation of state firms and football clubs, as well as restructure the private healthcare industry. 

He even intends to change the rules governing satellite Internet service providers – mainly to allow the entry of Elon Musk’s Starlink into Argentina.

"The goal is to start along the path to rebuilding the country," Milei said in a speech broadcast on television and radio.

“In the next few days, extraordinary sessions [of Congress] will be called and a package of bills will be sent to accompany these reforms and advance the process of change,” revealed the president.

Following the speech, a loud cacerolazo pot-banging protest broke out across and the capital and thousands of people converged on the streets near the Congress to voice their discontent.

"I am here because I am terrified by the decree," said Nicolás Waiselbaum, a 48-year-old teacher. 

Leopoldo Maldonado, a 25-year-old student, said "the measures are very negative."

"I'm especially worried about the rent law and the labour reform. It is already very complicated for young people to get a stable job," he said.


Decrees and bills

To become effective, Milei’s ginormous decree – which runs to 83 pages – must be published in the Official Gazette, which will likely happen on Thursday morning. It will then be sent to Congress for analysis by a bicameral committee.

Constitutional law expert Emiliano Vitaliani said that the decree could only be overturned if rejected by both the lower house and the Senate.

Milei's La Libertad Avanza party only has 40 of the 257 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and only seven of the 72 seats in the upper chamber, though he will receive strong support from his political allies in the Juntos por el Cambio coalition, which has larger numbers.

During his broadcast, the President sent a message to lawmakers from all political forces: "They will have to decide whether they will be part of this change or whether they will obstruct the most ambitious reform project of recent years. I trust that our representatives will defend the interests of the Argentine people and not those of the caste.”

Leaders of different opposition groups rushed to criticise the decree on social media, with many questioning its legality and the President’s decision to seek amendments via decree and not with the consent of Congress.

"Milei’s deregulation decree is unconstitutional. The President of the Nation has no powers to repeal that battery of laws," railed opposition Buenos Aires Province national deputy Alejandro "Topo" Rodríguez.

Centrist GEN deputy Margarita Stolbizer considered in her own post that the measures go "against institutionality and the rule of law.”

"The president uses a cadena nacional to denigrate politics and politicians,” she wrote, decrying Miilei’s attempts to “repeal laws by means of a decree.”


‘Collectivist’ predecessors

Flanked by eight of his nine of his Cabinet ministers and former government officials involved in drawing up the reforms, Milei had begun his broadcast in an ideological tone, slamming the “collectivism” of his Peronist predecessors in government.

Milei went after the “political caste” and accused them of filling their own pockets before looking after Argentina’s people.

"The problem is not the chef but the recipe – the ideas which failed in Argentina and all over the planet where they were tried have been an economic, social and cultural failure and cost the lives of millions of people,” said Milei.

“That doctrine that they call leftism, Communism, fascism or socialism, and that we call collectivism, is a way of thinking which dilutes the individual in favour of the power of the State. It is based on the premise that the reason of the State is more important than the individual, that the individual must submit to the State and that, therefore, citizens owe obeisance to their representatives: the political caste," he argued.

Milei said he rejected the "doctrine that politicians are God," adding that "not only are they not God, but they are the cause of our problems.” He said it was wrong that "a group of bureaucrats can plan the lives of human beings.”

Argentina is currently wracked by inflation running at more than 160 percent per annum. More than 40 percent of the population already lives in poverty and prices are expected to rise by more than 50 percent in just the next two months.

“A few days ago we announced the Stabilisation Plan,” said Milei, referencing recent reforms announced by Economy Minister Luis Caputo last week.

He said his intention is to resolve Argentina’s fiscal deficit, which the La Libertad Avanza leader described as “the origin of the problem and the primary source of inflation.”

Outlining his “bases for the reconstruction” of Argentina’s economy, Milei said he wanted to “restore freedom and autonomy to individuals by getting the state off their backs.”

His intention, he declared, is to “dismantle the enormous amount of regulations that have impeded, hindered and stopped the economic growth of our country.”


Top 30

Even Milei recognised though that the sheer size of his reform plan would be indigestible in a 15-minute broadcast and thus he highlighted 30 key reforms for viewers.

"These reforms, of which I have only mentioned 30 of the more than 300 included, are some of those contemplated in the decree," explained Milei.

At least seven laws will be struck down via decree, revealed the president, including laws governing the rental of private properties and the supply of items at supermarkets.

According to reporting by Perfil, many government officials were kept out of the loop about the fine print of the decrees and were given no room for reaction or to manoeuvre once confronted with details of the reforms.

Former Central Bank governor Federico Sturzenegger, who played a key role in the drafting of the reform, presented details of the decree in the last Cabinet meeting, government sources said.

He is believed to have spent last weekend working with Milei. Rodolfo Barra, Milei’s Treasury attorney of controversial past, was also influential.

Sturzenegger’s presence next to the president during the national broadcast surprised most onlookers, many of whom noted that he did not have a formal role in government.

However, an overview of Milei’s reform package, sent to reporters by the Casa Rosada, noted in it that the former Mauricio Macri administration official was an “advisor to the president.”


related news


More in (in spanish)