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Argentina's Milei vows to 'push' reforms despite opposition

World Saturday 02/March/2024 17:01 PM
By: DW
Argentina's Milei vows to 'push' reforms despite opposition

Rio de Janeiro: Argentina's President Javier Milei told lawmakers during a fiery speech to Congress that he "would keep pushing forward" with changes to restructure the economy.

Milei describes himself as a libertarian and anarcho-capitalist, and has pledged a drastic reduction in state spending aimed at shoring up a government deficit he says is fueling red-hot inflation.

Milei told lawmakers that he was going to press ahead with reforms with or without the approval of the legislature.

"We won't back down, we're going to keep pushing forward," he said, adding: "Whether that's by law, presidential decree or by modifying regulations."

"We are going to change the country for good... with or without the support of political leaders, with all the legal resources of the executive," Milei said.

"I ask for patience and trust," he said said, adding: "It will be some time before we can perceive the fruit of the economic reorganization and the reforms we are implementing."

The libertarian president added he would send a bill to penalize anyone — including a president — who signed off on financing a fiscal deficit by printing more money. Milei slashed the currency's value in half after taking office.

"If we don't change the economic model from the very roots, then Argentina has no future," he said.

Milei, pausing frequently amid cheers from his bloc, told Congress if they opposed him in his bid for change, they would face a "different type of animal."

Milei's Freedom Advances party is the third strongest in Congress and lacks the seats to impose his agenda on their own.

After taking office in December, Milei issued a decree to revoke or modify hundreds of existing laws to limit the power of unions and deregulate an economy featuring notorious heavy state intervention. A court ruling blocked the changes.

Milei then put forth a package of sweeping reforms dubbed the omnibus bill that seeks to privatize state entities and gut labor protections, among other things.

The bill was rejected by lawmakers last month after a vote. The bill included articles to relegate power to the executive for a year and the power to pass laws by decree in light of "economic urgency."

Milei's shock economic measures have boosted markets, but sparked widespread protests in the country and faced enormous pushback from labor unions who say the new reforms will hurt the poor.

Although the Argentine president directed fiery rhetoric at lawmakers, Milei took a more conciliatory tone in addressing provincial governors and proposed a 10-point "social pact" to be agreed by May 25.

Milei has been at loggerheads with provincial governors over funding reductions and the argument came to a head this week when some governors threatened to cut off energy supplies to the rest of the country.

The pact would include a "re-discussion" of the current distribution of tax funds between the federal government and provincial governors. The plan hinges on the passage of new economic reforms.