Sun, Jun 03, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Argentines protest fiscal policies

AP, BUENOS AIRES

Demonstrators participate in a “Bread and Work” protest in Buenos Aires on Friday.

Photo: Bloomberg

Tens of thousands of Argentines on Friday protested the government’s economic policies and its unpopular decision to seek help from the IMF.

The “Federal March” began four days ago in various regions and culminated in front of the presidential palace in a demonstration of growing social discontent.

Demonstrators demanded laws that guarantee food, land and infrastructure projects for the poor and urged union leaders to call a nationwide strike.

Argentines continue to lose purchasing power as consumer prices have risen an estimated 25 percent a year, one of the world’s highest inflation rates. They have staged protests against a series of government belt-tightening measures, including the elimination of subsidies for utility rates that has forced them to pay higher monthly bills.

“They’re putting at risk the social peace of Argentina with this wild tightening that they’re ordering,” said Daniel Menendez, a national coordinator for one of the social organizations that participated in the protest. “We have to put a break on these economic policies.”

The frustration has grown even more since Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced last month that his government would seek a loan from the IMF following a sharp drop in Argentina’s peso.

Many blame the fund’s policies for Argentina’s worst economic crisis in 2001, when one out of every five Argentines were jobless and millions were thrown into poverty.

A survey last month by local pollsters D’Alessio Irol/Berensztein said that 75 percent of Argentines feel seeking assistance from the IMF is a bad move.

Macri, a conservative who took office in 2015, says that the deal would avoid another economic implosion and that it would not harm the estimated one-third of Argentines who live in poverty.

He has also defended the austerity policies, saying they are needed to slash the government’s deficit, attract investment and strengthen the weak economy.

However, the elimination of subsidies and Macri’s ordering of thousands of layoffs for public workers to cut spending have caused labor unrest in a nation with a long tradition of the state providing jobs and benefits.

Macri on Thursday vetoed a measure passed by the Argentine Congress that would have capped increases in gas, electricity and water rates. The bill’s goal was to bring back subsidies on utilities and return rates to the levels of November last year.

Macri called the legislation “irresponsible” and said it effectively would have blocked payments for infrastructure and other projects.

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