Argentina’s President Javier Milei has cut public spending, but 100 days into his presidency, social tensions are simmering and he is still struggling to pass his key economic reforms.

AFP takes a look at the highlights since the Libertarian leader took office on December 10 and promises to put an end to an “orgy of public spending.”

Before the election, in which he defeated Argentina’s traditional political parties, Milei used a powered chainsaw on the campaign trail to symbolize his plans to dismantle a bloated state.

After taking office, he halved the cabinet to nine ministries, cut 50,000 public jobs, suspended all new public works contracts and eliminated generous fuel and transport subsidies.

The government boasted its first budget surplus in more than a decade and won approval from the International Monetary Fund, which has a $44 billion loan program with Argentina.

“The stabilization is working, better than originally thought, but there are questions about governance,” independent economist Marina Dal Poggetto said in a recent television interview.

Milei has come under criticism for closing the state news agency and the anti-discrimination agency and cutting funding for scientific research and the cinema industry.

Legally speaking, Milei’s ambitious plans did not go according to plan.

His party is in the minority in Congress and rivals have repeatedly pushed back on his key reforms.

The Senate last week rejected a “mega-decree” that would change or repeal more than 300 existing standards, such as lifting rent caps and relaxing labor laws.

However, it only requires the approval of a House of Representatives to become law, and the decree still needs to be submitted to the Chamber of Deputies.

But even if it passes, its constitutionality is questionable, analysts say.

In February, a separate omnibus bill intended to effect changes in the economy, politics and even some aspects of personal life was rejected by lawmakers for rewrite.

“Milei would like to advance his political and economic project at 100 kilometers per hour, but the government’s cruising speed is much lower,” Carlos Malamud, a researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute, told AFP.

Milei warned when he took office that things would get much worse for Argentinians before they got better, and they have.

He began by devaluing the peso by 54% and eliminating price controls.

These measures, as well as the elimination of fuel and transportation subsidies, have caused Argentina’s purchasing power to decline, leading to a slowdown in consumption and economic growth.

An aerial photo shows security forces standing guard as protesters demonstrate against President Javier Milei's government's cuts to the most vulnerable sectors in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires province, Argentina, March 18, 2024.

An aerial photo shows security forces standing guard as protesters demonstrate against President Javier Milei’s government’s cuts to the most vulnerable sectors in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires province, Argentina, March 18, 2024.

Monthly inflation is starting to cool, but annual inflation was 276% in February.

In the absence of current official figures, a private think tank estimated that around 57% of the country currently lives in poverty.

Meanwhile, the government has frozen support for around 40,000 soup kitchens pending an audit of their operations.

On Monday, police used tear gas and water cannons against thousands protesting against austerity measures.

“The hunger in the neighborhoods is terrible. They have not delivered goods to the soup kitchens for four months and the children need it,” Maria Medina from the left-wing organization Polo Obrero told AFP.

Milei hasn’t stopped stirring up controversy since he traded the colorful campaign for the presidency.

A social media junkie, he denigrates his opponents online – such as the lawmakers who abandoned his reforms – while praising himself and sharing bizarre memes.

He recently raised eyebrows when he told a group of high school students that he viewed abortion as “murder” and banned the use of gender-inclusive language in the military and public sectors.

During a speech to world leaders in Davos in January, he took aim at socialism, “radical feminism,” the “bloody abortion agenda” and “social justice.”

He flew to Rome to meet with Argentina’s Pope Francis – with whom he reconciled after repeatedly insulting him during the campaign – and met with former US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of a conservative conference.

Milei, who grew up in a Catholic family but studied Jewish scriptures, also visited Israel.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *