Friday, March 4, 2016
Macri opens up wallet to woo governors
Chubut Governor Mario Das Neves (left) and President Mauricio Macri (centre) greet each other in Chubut province as Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio looks on.
Promises 750M pesos for Chubut, inaugurates Río Negro firm ahead of holdouts vote
President Mauricio Macri is facing a race against time to pass reforms to implement the crucial agreement struck between the government and the holdout funds — and he’s actively wooing opposition governors ahead of what is widely regarded as a decisive battle in Congress.
In a carefully orchestrated move, Macri traveled to the Patagonia region for photo-ops with governors Alberto Weretilneck (Río Negro) and Mario Das Neves (Chubut), where he warned provincial leaders they should support the economic plan drawn up by the Let’s Change (Cambiemos) administration.
“Governors and mayors are responsible for investing in concrete solutions,” the president said during the opening of the legislative year in Chubut province. “But I’m talking about investment, not spending.”
He also promised to complete public works at the Comodoro Rivadavia port and to modernize Trelew Airport — an investment of some 750 million pesos — and to exclude Chubut inhabitants from the recently-passed electricity hikes.
Hours earlier, the president appeared alongside Weretilneck at the headquarters of the state-owned high-tech company INVAP to present a privately-run online platform destined for agrobusiness and related industries.
Flanked by Science and Technology Minister Lino Barañao and Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio, Macri said the new government will help the country “finally enter the 21st century.”
“We want to be part of the world” the president said, echoing his State of the Union address were he insisted a deal with holdout creditors would help the country turn a page after the years-long conflict. “The world has extended us a hand again.”
Chubut and Río Negro combined are represented by six senators, five of whom are Peronists — a key bloc Macri needs to court if he wants his pro-deal package to sail smoothly through the Upper House.
Good jobs and bad jobs
The president stressed he was there in support of Río Negro’s inhabitants, despite its governor not being a Let’s Change ally.
“We’re here to back Río Negro, regardless of our political parties — and we’ll do the same with the rest of the provinces,” he exclaimed.
The online platform for farmers launched yesterday is produced by Frontec, a private firm led by soy tycoon Gustavo Grobocopatel. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a public or a private company,” Macri said, “but whether we can add value and generate new opportunities.”
The idea of “added value” created by “good companies” was repeated in the afternoon in Chubut during a rally in the provincial capital of Trelew, where he took the opportunity to defend the massive firings of state workers seen over the past few weeks.
“In recent times we disguised unemployment as public employment and that meant we couldn’t invest,” Macri said, continuing his recent criticism of the administration of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015). “When (a government) invests in much-needed public works such as pipes, sewers, roads, schools, it also generates jobs — but quality jobs.”
In a joint statement released shortly after the meetings, both Das Neves and Macri said they discussed “the importance of bringing back investment” to revive the stagnant economy, echoing statements made by Let’s Change officials that sealing an accord with the so-called “vulture” funds will result in fresh funds from abroad.
Tit for tat
His remarks came as Peronist party (PJ) leaders threatened not to help the ruling coalition to reach a quorum to discuss the package of reforms needed to implement the deal with the holdouts.
Héctor Recalde, the head of the Kirchnerite Victory Front (FpV) caucus in the Lower House of Congress, said Peronist leaders were “fighting extortion and discrimination” by Macri after the government tried to appease governors by creating a commission tasked with finding a formula to gradually reduce the 15 percent deduction to funds that are then distributed to the provinces.
Last week, the government vowed to carry out a “progressive” reduction in the withheld funds over the next five years for its definitive elimination. But according to Recalde, “some provinces already got their money back from revenue-sharing funds while others will only see those funds returned in 2021.”
As a result, Recalde (the leader of a bloc of 81 lawmakers) is refusing to back the bill, as opposed to his Upper House counterpart, Senator Miguel Ángel Pichetto.
As the Herald reported yesterday, Pichetto, who is from Río Negro (one of the provinces visited by Macri yesterday), has confirmed the Peronist bloc in the Senate has every intention of debating the reforms.
As the spat in Congress continues, two more governors voiced their demands regarding revenue-sharing.
Tucumán Governor Juan Manzur said he was ready to continue fighting “for the money that belongs to Tucumán inhabitants,” in reference to the 15-percent deduction. Manzur stressed that he will try to drag national lawmakers into the fight until they achieve “equitable sharing” among all the country’s districts.
Entre Ríos Governor Gustavo Bordet, for his part, called on Macri to guarantee a better distribution of resources and dismissed the PRO leader’s call for “responsibility.”
“We need to ensure governance, all right, but provincial leaders should be able to govern their districts as well,” Bordet said.
Late last night, the Lower House received the bill at a committee level. According to the dictates of New York judge Thomas Griesa, the country must repeal the Sovereign Payment and Lock laws before April 14.
Herald with Télam, DyN