Argentinians protest as economic emergency measures bite

14 Feb 19

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to protest against high unemployment and utility price hikes.

Argentinians are already struggling with high inflation and a recession. They have been hit by increases to their water, electricity and gas bills as centre-right leader Mauricio Macri has cut government spending.

The protests, which are common in Argentina, took place on Wednesday.

The cuts are made under an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to tackle the country’s fiscal deficit, bringing it to zero from 2.7% of GDP by the end of the year, as part of its promise to rein in spending.

The government’s reduction in subsidies, which had kept utility costs low, is part of this commitment. But the result is sharp hikes in households’ water, gas and electricity bills – an average price increase of 35% this year.

The subsidies are expected to total $5.11bn this year, down from $6.88bn in 2018. In 2015, when Macri took office, the government spent $17.23bn on energy, according to Reuters.

The 2019 electricity increases will come in four stages, starting this month, it has been reported.

Macri is expected to run for a second term in the general election in October this year, against his predecessor Cristina Fernández, a left-leaning opposition.

Inflation in Argentina at the end of last year was 47.6% - a 27-year high.

Last month and in December, people also took to the streets over the government’s austerity policies.

The IMF is expected to conduct its third review of the country’s progress under its $56bn loan agreement this month.

 

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