The public hearings the Supreme Court told President Mauricio Macri’s administration to carry out before increasing residential gas bills will launch tomorrow and the way things are looking, the Usina del Arte’s auditorium is set to resemble more a bloodthirsty Roman Colosseum than a town hall filled with boring old people explaining in detail why we will have to pay more for gas. Let’s take a look at why.
In the first place, the Macri administration decided to suspend all football games from the lower divisions in the City of Buenos Aires — and it is considering doing the same with first division matches — to have as many police officers as possible to guard the areas surrounding the Usina del Arte, as it expects Kirchnerite and Leftist parties to protest against the increases.
But a potential quilombo outside the premises will surely not begin to compare with the tensions that will rise inside the venue, considering the melting pot of political party representatives and citizens in favor and against the increases that will make their way to the auditorium to listen and/or expose their point of view. The hearing will be kicked off at 9 a.m. by none other than the man behind the increases, Energy Minister Juan José Aranguren himself. He will have 20 minutes to explain his government’s decision to increase gas prices for residential users by 203 percent.
After the likely five-minute break that will be needed to clean up all the stuff that will be thrown at Aranguren by those against the increases, others will take the stage to explain their positions on the increases, including Río Negro province Governor Alberto Weretilneck, representatives from state-run oil company YPF and Total Austral, among others.
And after all the official voices, it will be the turn of the 373 people who signed up to have their say. And these aren’t just regular joes who want to talk about the prices, there are lots of key political leaders, including former Economy Minister Axel Kiciloff, National Senator Fernando “Pino” Solanas, Cambiemos Senator Federico Pinedo, Leftist Workers’ Front (FIT) lawmakers Nicolás del Caño, Néstor Pitrola and Myriam Bregman, union leaders Hugo Yasky and Pablo Micheli, La Matanza Mayor Verónica Magario and San Martín Mayor Gabriel Katopodis are only some of the big names who will have five minutes to give their point of view about the increases.
Biologist Javier Corcuera, who was selected by the government to moderate the event, estimated that the hearing could last up to 72 hours. Citizens from several cities in the provinces will also be able to take part in the hearings via teleconference.
At the outset, the government will be proposing an average increase in gas prices of 203 percent. A reduction from the original proposal of 330 percent. The government’s goal is to have a tiered increase, with a hike every six months. That means that subsidies will not be fully eliminated until 2019, with the exception of the Patagonian provinces that will receive subsidies until 2022.
The hearings are non-binding so regardless of how they go, we can be sure how they will end: the Macri adminitration will be cleared to move forward with the increases. First we will all have to survive them, though.