ARGENTINE UPDATE – May 2, 2016


1. ARGENTINA’S BIG UNIONS JOIN TO PROTEST LAYOFFS, INFLATION (The Washington Post)

2. ARGENTINA FLOODS SWAMP SOY CROP; SOME MUST COMMUTE BY BOAT (The Washington Post)

3. UBER HITS A BUENOS AIRES POTHOLE (The Wall Street Journal)

4. ARGENTINA COULD ISSUE $30BN DEBT THIS YEAR (Financial Times)

5. ARGENTINE UNIONS FLEX MUSCLE IN ANTI-GOVERNMENT STREET PROTEST (Reuters News)

6. ARGENTINA ECONOMY: QUICK VIEW – TRADE DEFICIT NARROWS SHARPLY IN Q1 (Economist Intelligence Unit – ViewsWire)

7. WRITER EMBRACES HER ADOPTED CITY (The Dallas Morning News)

8. THE TRIUMPHANT RETURN OF ARGENTINA TO INTERNATIONAL CAPITAL MARKETS (Forbes)

9. ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENT MACRI TO UNLEASH SOCIAL HOUSING SCHEME (PanamPost)

10. ANTI-LAYOFFS BILL IN ARGENTINA SPELLS DISASTER FOR WORKERS (PanamPost)

1. ARGENTINA’S BIG UNIONS JOIN TO PROTEST LAYOFFS, INFLATION (The Washington Post)
By Debora Rey and Luis Andres Henao
April 30, 2016

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s strongest unions brought thousands of people into the streets Friday to protest high inflation and job cuts in the biggest demonstrations against President Mauricio Macri since he took office in December.

Demonstrators waving blue and white Argentine flags flooded the main avenues of Buenos Aires, blocking traffic in a protest that brought together rival unions that put aside differences to protest Macri’s policies.

“This is a historic gathering … We understand that the interests of the workers come before the interests of the union leaders,” said Hugo Moyano, who heads the truckers union and a branch of the influential CGT labor federation. “Macri is against the workers.”

Thousands of state employees have been fired since Macri came to power in December promising to cut bloated spending, curb government deficits and tame one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

The job cuts and the recent elimination of subsidies, which have led to sharp increases in everything from bus rides to light bills, have stoked unrest in a nation with a long tradition of providing generous state jobs and benefits.

Pro-business Macri has said measures are needed to revive Argentina’s stagnant economy, attract foreign investment and end economic distortions that have led to years of consistently high inflation.

His government says the layoffs are justified because many employees hired during previous administrations never showed up for work. The unions say workers are being indiscriminately fired.

Argentines continue to lose purchasing power to an inflation rate estimated at 30 percent.

“There’s a critical situation in Argentina and we’re not seeing a solution ahead,” said Pablo Micheli, leader of the Central Workers Union, which includes many public sector employees.

A recent report by an opposition think tank, the Argentine Center for Economic Policy, said 141,542 workers lost jobs between December and March, most in the private sector.

The labor secretary has contested those figures, but the government acknowledges that about 10,000 state workers have been laid off.

Maia Goldin is one of them. The 28-year-old chemical engineer recently showed up to work at a government arms company to find her building closed and being guarded by police.

“Nobody ever gave me a reason,” Goldin said. This administration is “losing its humanity, its ability to think and care about others, because when you leave someone without work, you leave them without a reason to be.”

Layoffs have hit particularly hard in Argentina’s oil-rich south as companies try to stay afloat despite low oil prices. About 40,000 workers in the construction sector were laid off from January to March, Argentina’s Construction Workers Union says.

Labor unrest could continue to grow if Argentina’s top trading partner, Brazil, plunges even deeper into its worst recession in decades. Argentine exports to Brazil fell more than 50 percent last year and the forecast for 2016 is similar, said Patricio Giusto, an analyst at the Political Diagnostics consulting firm.

“It’s not like Argentina can say: ‘Brazil is falling apart so we’ll sell to another country.’ We don’t have an alternative market,” Giusto said. “It’s a problem that Macri can’t solve. It’s an external issue that’s out of his hands.”

Argentina’s opposition has proposed a bill that would ban laying off workers “without just cause” and that would allow those who lose their jobs to get double compensation.

Macri has said the plan would scare off badly needed investment.

The measure has been approved by the Senate and is to be debated by the lower house of Congress, where Macri lacks a majority.

2. ARGENTINA FLOODS SWAMP SOY CROP; SOME MUST COMMUTE BY BOAT (The Washington Post)
April 29, 2016

VILLA PARANACITO, Argentina — Water levels in the flooded town of Villa Paranacito have risen so much that the best way for residents to commute is by boat.

The town in eastern Argentina is one of the worst-struck by weeks of heavy rains stemming from the El Nino weather phenomenon. With streets covered by several feet of water from swollen rivers, residents are getting to schools, banks and other town services on boats, the only means of transportation.

Authorities have evacuated thousands of people across Argentina. Flood waters have reached grazing grounds, drowning livestock in the leading meat producing country. They have also swamped about a third of Argentina’s soy farms, causing big losses to one of the world’s top grains suppliers.

Argentina’s Rural Society said Thursday that about 4 million metric tons of soy had been ruined. The losses are estimated at up to $1.3 billion.

Soybean prices at the Chicago Board of Trade fell Friday, after rising for weeks to nearly a one year-high on growing concerns about the damaged crops in Argentina, which is the world’s No. 3 soy exporter.

3. UBER HITS A BUENOS AIRES POTHOLE (The Wall Street Journal)
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
2 May 2016

Wealth-creating economies welcome innovation. And then there’s Buenos Aires, where Uber says it has been waiting more than four months for a tax-identification number. Now the company is under investigation for operating its ride-sharing business illegally.

Uber’s difficulty with the city government is good news for taxicab owners and union bosses who want to keep the company out of the market. But it is bad news for Argentina, a nation hungering for jobs and the productivity gains necessary for higher living standards.

Center-right President Mauricio Macri, of the Republican Proposal Party (PRO), who was inaugurated in December, has promised an economic revival. But if entrenched interests win protection from the technological revolution, he isn’t likely to deliver.

On April 12, Uber ran out of patience and began offering its ride-sharing services in Buenos Aires without a permit or a tax-identification number. A group of taxi unions immediately filed a lawsuit demanding that the city prohibit Uber. The city responded with a legal action against the company for the misdemeanor of “improper use of public space for profit.”

Uber spokeswoman Niki Christoff says that on April 15 police raided the offices of its lawyers, “taking all Uber files and information they found.” Ms. Christoff says that the next day police broke the lock on the door of the home of the local Uber general manager, raiding the premises and taking some electronic equipment and documents.

From April 15 to April 20, Uber offered free rides in Buenos Aires, hoping to create demand for its service and counter the taxi union, which has used roadblocks and protests to pressure city regulators to ban the company. Uber says it is now operating normally and believes its business is constitutionally protected. It emphasizes that it is neither a car service nor a taxi business and says Argentina needs a new regulatory regime for companies that provide a ride-sharing platform.

Jill Hazelbaker, Uber’s vice president of public policy and communications says that “the resistance in Buenos Aires has become among the fiercest that we have experienced anywhere in the world.” But consumers are eager to give it a try. The company says there have been 250,000 downloads of its app in Argentina, while 120,000 riders have opened accounts and there were around 175,000 trip requests during the first week of operation.

Uber will also bring jobs. According to Ms. Christoff, in Mexico City about half of its drivers were previously unemployed. In Argentina, she says that there were 10,000 sign-ups in the first 36 hours of driver enrollment, a record for any Uber launch in Latin America. In all, some 35,000 Argentines have enrolled as Uber drivers, the company says. The job also provides flexibility to the underemployed who are looking for a second source of income.

Other platforms that match buyers and sellers are already changing the Argentine economy. Airbnb, for example, makes every property owner into a potential innkeeper.

Uber says Latin America is its fastest-growing market. It also has competition. The Spanish company Cabify — which is also an app-based mobility service — already operates in Peru, Chile and Colombia. Its director for Latin America, Ricardo Weder, told the Argentine daily La Nacion in April that Cabify will launch in May in Buenos Aires and in the city of Rosario.

Ms. Christoff says the company requested a meeting with Buenos Aires’s chief of government more than a week ago but has not heard back. In a written response to my request for comment on the Uber case, the city’s transportation department told me Thursday that the company has not filed the proper documentation to operate in Buenos Aires. City Secretary of Transportation Juan Jose Mendez said “Uber knows the law but decided to ignore it.”

But there may be something else at work. Argentine unions are powerful, and taxi syndicates in Buenos Aires are no exception. Taxi-union boss Omar Viviani has said that under “no circumstances” should Uber be allowed to operate in the country.

President Macri subtly recognized union power at an April 14 public event in the province of Buenos Aires: “I appreciate the position of the government of the city in defending our taxi drivers, which are a symbol of Argentina, but we also have the problem of the advancement of technology, which we must traverse as gradually as possible to take care of all Argentines.”

Mr. Macri is in a tight spot. His PRO party doesn’t control Congress. To govern, he needs the support of moderate Peronists, and Peronism is built on organized labor.

Yet indulging the archaic taxi network is defeatist. The president would do better to frame the issue as an opportunity to advance the interests of the millions of portenos, as the capital’s residents are known, who will be beneficiaries of greater competition and more investment. Argentina badly needs the creative destruction of the disrupter class and that includes Uber.

4. ARGENTINA COULD ISSUE $30BN DEBT THIS YEAR (Financial Times)
By Benedict Mander in Buenos Aires
May 1, 2016

Argentina could issue $30bn in debt this year, as other issuers seek to mimic the government’s success in returning to international capital markets with a blockbuster bond sale last month.

First out of the gates will be Argentina’s provincial governments, expected to issue at least $4bn this year. They hope to take advantage of rekindled investor interest in a country isolated from bond markets by a protracted creditor dispute, which was triggered by a 2001 default on almost $100bn of debt.

“Argentine debt represents an extraordinary opportunity. These yields don’t exist anywhere else in the world in countries with such low levels of debt,” said Facundo Gómez Minujín, managing director at JPMorgan’s Argentina unit.

Yields on Argentina’s $16.5bn debt issue, finalised on April 19, averaged 7.2 per cent. Meanwhile, government debt is 44 per cent of GDP, of which 17 per cent is debt with the private sector, according to officials.

“It may be a complicated moment globally but the search for yield will always continue to exist,” said Mr Gómez Minujín, who estimates that between the central and provincial governments and the corporate sector, Argentina could issue about $30bn in debt this year.

The provinces of Neuquén, Mendoza and Córdoba are expected to come to the market in the next month, with the city of Buenos Aires likely to follow shortly afterwards, according to finance secretary Luis Caputo.

The surge of debt issuance by Argentina’s provinces is explained by the government’s drive to lower inflation, currently about 34 per cent. Inflation is high partly because of the previous government’s willingness to finance provincial debt by printing money — a policy that the market-friendly government of President Mauricio Macri, who took office in December, wants to stop.

Mr Gómez Minujín also expects Argentine companies to issue about $4bn this year. Analysts name major companies such as Pampa Energia, Arcor and several local banks as interested in raising debt.

Walter Stoeppelwerth, head of research at Balanz Capital, an investment bank in Buenos Aires, said raising capital abroad was cheaper for Argentine companies than funding themselves in the domestic bond market, where they had to pay interest rates well over 30 per cent. “There’s also a lot of appetite for corporate debt on the buy side. You just can’t find the liquidity,” he added.

Government officials were nevertheless concerned that too many companies were adopting a wait-and-see approach, despite many projects in the pipeline, said Alejo Costa, chief economist at Puente, an investment bank in Buenos Aires. “This is a historic opportunity, but it looks like the majority are willing to wait until the economy starts to pick up,” he said.

5. ARGENTINE UNIONS FLEX MUSCLE IN ANTI-GOVERNMENT STREET PROTEST (Reuters News)
By Nicolas Misculin
April 29, 2016

Thousands of Argentines took to the streets of the capital on Friday to protest the policies of President Mauricio Macri, a taste of the backlash he faces for economic reforms that have swelled the ranks of the poor.

Protesters, waving flags and chanting anti-government slogans, demanded an end to public sector job cuts and plummeting buying power in a demonstration called by the country’s biggest unions.

“We are losing buying power in a significant way,” Pablo Micheli, the secretary general of the Argentine Workers’ Union, told Reuters.

“We are hoping that the government will come to the table to talk. If not, we could call a general strike for the end of May or the first half of June.”
By sharply devaluing the peso, loosening price controls and ending utility subsidies since taking office in December, Macri has sent inflation surging, leaving those at the bottom of the economic heap scrambling to pay food and gas bills.

At the same time, the business-friendly leader’s efforts to trim government payrolls have eliminated thousands of public sector jobs. The opposition estimates that up to 150,000 people could lose their jobs this year.
In an attempt to stem the job losses, the opposition is trying to push a law through Congress that would guarantee generous redundancy payments. Macri has said he would veto it.
Although Wall Street has praised Macri’s policies as a long-needed correction to years of government intervention and idiosyncratic economic policy under his leftist predecessors, the opposition retains strong support in the country.

6. ARGENTINA ECONOMY: QUICK VIEW – TRADE DEFICIT NARROWS SHARPLY IN Q1 (Economist Intelligence Unit – ViewsWire)
29 April 2016

Event

Recently released first-quarter data show a sharp narrowing of the trade deficit in year-on-year terms, from US$1.2bn to US$380m, as export earnings grew mildly while imports continued to fall.

Impact on the forecast

A pick-up in export earnings in the first quarter came on the heels of a sharp decline in 2015, which showed no signs of let-up as recently as the fourth quarter, when total earnings fell by almost 20%. A major driver of the recovery (earnings rose by 3% in the quarter) was the sale of grain stockpiles built up by agricultural exporters once export taxes were dramatically reduced by the new government in mid-December. As a result, export earnings from cereals rose by more than 50% in the quarter, while exports of oilseeds (which includes Argentina’s main export crop, soybeans) rose by almost 40%.

Offsetting this good performance, industrial goods exports continued to fall, by just over 20% year on year. Weakness in the key Brazilian market, the destination of most of Argentina’s automotive exports, is continuing to hurt manufactured goods exports. Notwithstanding December’s 30% currency devaluation, the accumulated real appreciation of the peso over recent years is also damaging the sector, offsetting positive steps by the new government to encourage production by eliminating foreign-exchange and import controls, which should in theory facilitate the import of much-needed intermediate inputs.

First-quarter data on intermediate and capital goods imports suggest that a recovery in industrial activity remains some way off. Intermediate imports fell by 12% in the quarter, while capital goods imports fell by 1%. Fuel and energy imports also fell, by 17%, although this will reflect price rather than volume trends. The only category of imports to register a rise in the first quarter was consumer goods imports, which rose by 5%. This is a somewhat surprising result, given the decline of real wages in the quarter and negative domestic retail sales indicators, but appears to reflect pent-up demand for semi-durable goods, along with the extension of a government-sponsored 12-month interest-free credit plan by banks.

7. WRITER EMBRACES HER ADOPTED CITY (The Dallas Morning News)
By Michael Granberry
30 April 2016

Fabiana Elisa Martínez is living proof that the Dallas of the 21st century is so much different than it used to be. She hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina, which she left for Dallas in 2002. Fourteen years later, she’s a published author – in two languages.

Martínez, 45, recently released her first book, 12 Random Words, which was published simultaneously in Spanish and English. Future editions, she vows, will appear in French, Portuguese and Italian.

“The book is a collection of short stories,” she says in perfect English. “Twelve short stories. It’s really 13, so let’s call it a baker’s dozen. Each story is based on a random word that I was given each month. So, I composed a story, in English, based on each of the 12 words.”

She chose to write in English, she says, because it’s now her “language of love.” The stories, she says with a rare enthusiasm, are “full of life, passion, love, struggle, unexpected turns and introspective thought.” Her characters carry with them “endearing, idiosyncratic and, at times, dark qualities.”

She arrived in Dallas in November 2002 and nine years later to the day was interpreting Spanish into English for former President George W. Bush. “Had someone told me I would be doing that in 2002,” she says, “I would not have believed it – at all.”

Martínez loves the story as an illustration of how “wonderful” life can be for those who emigrate from their native land to the U.S., which she idealizes as much as any immigrant ever has. For her, it has been “a truly wonderful journey.”

She runs her own company, Top-Active LLC, which teaches Spanish and other languages to all sorts of people. Her clients include Erin Cluley, who will host a reception for Martínez from 6 to 8 Saturday night at Erin Cluley Gallery, 414 Fabrication St. in Dallas, near the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

Another client is filmmaker Quin Mathews, who edited the book and sings its praises, saying, “12 Random Words tells stories of love and yearning, each portrait a puzzle piece that reveals fragments of discovery, each one a treasure.”

In her homeland, Martínez worked as a theater critic, a radio host and a language instructor. So what made her want to move to America?

“I had worked with American people in Argentina for a long time,” she says. “And I had visited the United States many times before moving. I had always felt that I had the same type of mentality as Americans – if you want something, you need to work for it, to do your best and grab what you need to grab to make it yours.

“The second most practical reason is that there was this huge economic crisis in Argentina in 2001. I knew that my line of work might disappear, so I decided to bring my business to Dallas.”

And now, she’s married to “a wonderful guy from Dallas,” who manages to speak, as she says with a laugh, “a little Spanish.”

When it comes to the “dark qualities” in her characters, she says, “We all have dark qualities.” But one of her baker’s dozen of stories explores the notion in chilling depth, underscoring the truism, as she sees it, “that you cannot have light without darkness.”

She lists as her influences such literary giants as Umberto Eco, Milan Kundera and Philip Roth. “The best way to become a wonderful writer,” she says, “is to become a wonderful reader.” She calls her initial foray into reading Roth “like a punch to the face.”

She embraces life in her adopted hometown, she says, “because the people are so generous. They opened their arms. They didn’t care that I had an accent. They wanted to work with someone who wanted to do their best. They helped me grow my business.

“The first time I told people I was writing a book, they said, ‘That’s wonderful! That’s fantastic! You’ll be great.’ That kind of support, people shouldn’t take it for granted. Every time I have a big idea, I know that if I say it, it may happen. And that’s the beauty of America.”

8. THE TRIUMPHANT RETURN OF ARGENTINA TO INTERNATIONAL CAPITAL MARKETS (Forbes)
By Jon Hartley
April 30, 2016

Earlier this month, Argentina issued $16.5 billion in bonds in the largest emerging market debt deal on record, effectively returning to international capital markets for the first time after a following a plague of defaults over the past 15 years under the Christina Kirchner administration. The Argentinian bond issue was viewed as being enormously successful that the issue was oversubscribed 3 times over, an unbelievable feat for a government that only a few years ago was deemed non-creditworthy, while depleting central bank foreign reserves to remain solvent.

The success of the offering and the symbolic return to international capital markets is almost entirely due to the market reforms implemented under the leadership of new Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, who took office last December. These reforms include settling with existing creditors on previous defaults, removing currency controls and taming inflation.

Settling with existing creditors on previously defaulted Argentinian sovereign debt

When Argentina defaulted on more than $80 billion in 2001, it was the largest default of its kind in financial history. Bondholders, led by a group of New York hedge funds including Paul Singer’s Elliot Management, battled the nation for payment for nearly 15 years. While the Argentinian government was able to settle with some creditors previously, due to the lack of a collective action clause (CAC) in the initial offering, a supermajority of bond holders could not bind holdout funds like Elliot Management. Fortunately, the country’s new debt issue and others going forward will include CACs, learning from the past.

The Macri government’s settlement with Elliot, making them whole on debt bought at a cheap discount, represents more than just a win for the holdout funds. More importantly, the settlement represents good faith that Argentina will honor all of its debts in the future, likely contributing to the success of the new 2016 bond issue.

Removing currency controls on the Argentinian peso

In one of Macri’s first moves after taking power in December 2015, President Mauricio Macri announced his new government would lift currency controls to attract investors and kick-start the economy, a move that was met with immediate depreciation of the currency from its artificial peg.

Allowing a free, floating exchange rate effectively ended a four-year currency policy that restricted imports, hurt economic growth and created a thriving black market in Argentinian peso-U.S. dollar foreign exchange within the country.

Argentinian free-market reforms, central bank changes and inflation measurement improvements

In further undoing the populist economic legacy of Cristina Kirchner, Macri since taking office has eliminated most farm export taxes, reduced individual income taxes, begun restaffing Argentina’s discredited statistics agency, and has replaced the central bank president, installing MIT-trained economist Federico Sturzenegger as the country’s new central banker.

As Greg Ip recently observed in the Wall Street Journal, Argentina’s central bank advances and transfers to the government have been responsible for inflation above 20% in recent years. Fortunately that policy will effectively end under Sturzenegger.

ArgentinaCentralBankTransfersInflation

In addition, restaffing Argentina’s statistics agency should help put the country on a path to providing accurate measurements of economic activity. Alberto Cavallo and Roberto Rigobon, co-founders of the MIT Billion Prices project have created their own online inflation indices for Argentina using online price data, which demonstrated the national inflation statistics were significantly doctored to underreport inflation during the Kirchner reign.

PriceStats/MIT Billion Prices Project Online Year-over-Year Inflation (%) vs. Argentina National Statistics Authority (INDEC) Reported Year-over-Year Inflation (%)

PriceStatsArgentinaInflation

Fortunately, Macri’s market reforms have already demonstrated considerable promise, and the country’s new bond issue is a monumental first success.

9. ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENT MACRI TO UNLEASH SOCIAL HOUSING SCHEME (PanamPost)
By Raquel García
April 29, 2016

Make-Work Program Supposed to Create 120,000 Jobs

Argentina President Mauricio Macri is trying to counteract the approval of an anti-firing law put forward by the Senate with the announcement of a housing program that could create 200,000 jobs, as well as fulfill a campaign promise to invest in the housing sector with less resources.

The program, which will be announced this Thursday, includes the construction of homes, the presentation of property deeds and the granting of credit with lower subsidies. It is expected to reach a million homes within the next eight years.

The government will construct 120,000 homes throughout the country through a “transparent system that will give priority to families of lower incomes,” an official told Télam.

With this plan, 200,000 new positions will be created in the construction industry throughout every province. Construction is an area that saw the most positions lost in the last few years.

On top of this, 300,000 property deeds will be given to families with little economic resources so that they can have their own homes. Over 450,000 microcredit with little or no interest rates for making fixes to gas light and water systems.

The plan also includes urbanization work and improving the integral villages and settlements throughout the country. Residents in these areas will be guaranteed access to drinking water, sewers, streets, sidewalks and public spaces.

It will also be announced a continuous and improving Program for Argentinean Credit (Pro.Cre.Ar) with the creation of 175,000 and accessible fees, that are directed at people that hire someone who attain their own house.

This Friday, Macri will announce from the Tucumán Province measures that will provide solutions to 225 unprotected areas, most of which have to do with housing. In this program, the government will carry out community-specific needs on a case-by-case basis.

This announcement will be considered with a march by five trade unions on the Day of the Worker to protest dismissals in the public sector.

Local press underscored the government has created an ad campaign to show he is working to revive the country’s economy by creating a suitable climate to attract investment.

10. ANTI-LAYOFFS BILL IN ARGENTINA SPELLS DISASTER FOR WORKERS (PanamPost)
By Antonella Marty
May 1, 2016

Hypocrisy Shows All the Peronist Opposition Wants Is to Sabotage President Macri

In Argentina, the populist ideology known as Peronism is so paradoxical and inconsistent that its latest support of the so-called “anti-layoffs law” is no longer surprising.

The bill spearheaded by the Peronist opposition, which has already passed the Argentinean Senate, seeks to suspend layoffs in the public and private sectors for 180 days and force employers to give a double severance pay.

Peronists call themselves the upholders of progress and work, but all they do is create barriers for economic growth and productive jobs. The founder of the movement, former President Juan Domingo Perón, famously said that “to govern is to give jobs” — but at whose expense? At what cost?

One must be somewhat thick not to realize, after abundant examples in Latin America and across the world, that prohibitionist policies just lead to undesired consequences, often achieving the exact opposite of the intended goal.

If all it takes to solve a problem is legislation, why not promote a bill against hunger, cold, poverty, heat, accumulation or scarcity? Prohibition is a self-destructive path has never achieved its purpose.

By prohibiting layoffs, companies will be destroyed. The employer will be restricted, unemployment will increase, and at some point accumulated layoffs will come. The result? The law will not benefit those who are already employed, let alone those who are unemployed.

Moreover, companies will avoid risk and think twice before hiring someone. When the burden becomes too large, they will stop hiring and overall unemployment will increase.

The anti-layoffs bill may be one more botched magical solutions peddled by the Peronists over the last decade under the Kirchner administration, disguising a problem they created and that they now want the current administration to bear the burden for.

It is worth recalling one of Perón’s first economic measures in 1945, when he got a law passed freezing rents and banning evictions. This caused a fall in the construction of rental housing. The owners and potential lessees went bankrupt. Those who had savings invested in real estate were impoverished, future investment in rental housing disappeared, and nobody wanted to accept a new tenant for fear of not being able to evict them.

Everyone in the business was harmed, as you can always expect to happen with this kind of prohibitionist approach.

In Venezuela’s Chavista model, anti-layoffs rules produce the same effect. The law establishes that “work stability is guaranteed and all forms of unjustified dismissal are restricted.” Today you have the Venezuelan government reducing working hours because they have destroyed the country’s economy with similar interventionism.

Shortages, insecurity, expropriations, prohibitions, price controls and thousands of arbitrary policies have destroyed private inventiveness, and have filled the country with inefficient public employees.

In the meanwhile, ordinary citizens focus all their waking time on how to survive, where to find food or medicine, and how to dry out their hair without a hairdryer, a suggestion of President Nicolás Maduro on how to save energy.

In Argentina, the hypocrisy about this measure is so blatant that it is baffling.

Héctor Recalde, a congressman for the Peronist Front for Victory movement, expressed in 2014 — when Peronist Cristina Kirchner was in power — that “we must be careful” about any anti-layoffs legislation “because these issues may hinder job hiring”.

Fast-forward to 2016 and a new administration. Recalde now states that “all blocks of the opposition signed this project. It has the intention to help SMEs and workers” and “we must not continue with policies for the rich. ”

Recalde’s overflowing inconsistency is just another example of Peronism’s modus operandi. It suggests that what the opposition is after is not helping workers but to sabotage the economic recovery.

The worst part is that this measure will directly harm common Argentineans and not only the business-friendly environment that the Mauricio Macri administration is trying to show the world.

For SMEs, which make up more than 90 percent of private firms in Argentina, it will be really difficult to afford the double severance pay mandated by this bill. They may well end up in bankruptcy, generating more and more unemployment.

No one will invest in a country where rules change overnight, and without investment there is no way out of the problems inherited by the long and terrible Peronist era.

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