Following the news yesterday that big corporations had been ordered to cut back on their gas consumption to prioritize “homes, hospitals and schools” due to shortages, the government has since admitted that it made a “mistake” with regards to consumers’ utility bills.
“In relation to the increases in the cost of gas, we understand that we have made a mistake and we are correcting it,” disclosed Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio. To put our minds at ease, he confirmed that the government “was acting in good faith” and that the announcement would no doubt be “reassuring to many Argentines.”
- Read more: Companies Asked To Reduce Gas Consumption To Prioritize Homes, Hospitals In Light Of Shortage
The recent hikes in gas prices were an attempt by the Argentine government to get the so-called “energy emergency” in check before winter really sets in. On May 23, the government announced that it would go back on the gas price hikes in the Patagonian region by introducing a maximum 400 percent cap, however this was apparently not enough to keep oil workers happy. Following union protests in the province of Tierra del Fuego and a serious threat of gas supplies running out, the government has been forced to well and truly back down. Well, sort of.
At the meeting, which was convened yesterday in the Casa Rosada, Frigerio, as well as Energy Minister Juan José Aranguren and Tourism Minister Gustavo Santos, hosted governors from Argentina’s various provinces (including La Pampa, Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz, Mendoza and Tierra del Fuego) to discuss the issue regarding the country’s gas supply.
According to reports following the meeting, an agreement was reached that will exempt various people from paying the new utilities cost, which have already increased by 2,500 percent in some cases. The Interior Minister confirmed that the new agreement will extend to the rest of the provinces and could be signed today during a meeting that will take place between the cabinet ministers and the rest of Argentina’s provincial governors.
According to press reports, retirees who earn up to AR $10,000 per month, workers with monthly salaries under AR $12,000, the disabled, domestic workers and beneficiaries of social programs will all be exempt from higher utility bills. Additionally, the new agreement seeks to put a cap of between 400 and 500 percent — similar to that for residents — on gas prices for small and medium sized commercial businesses (PYMEs) and tourism companies, including the hotel industry. In the southern provinces, gas increases have soared by up to 2,000 percent for some of these corporations.
Members of the opposition, including Sergio Ziliotto from the Justicialist Party (PJ), called for a meeting next week with the Energy Minister, to discuss the issue further. “We consider the raises to be an attack on the pockets of workers and we want to express our concern about the extent of these measures… the excessive rate increases are causing very serious consequences to private consumers and companies that make up the production sector.”
However, after admitting the government’s mistake, Frigerio seemed to believe that Argentina is heading back on the right track. “We have advanced significantly regarding the utilities issues, with the objective of avoiding gas shortages in Argentina. Bad politics in recent years has meant that the country has lost it’s self sufficiency,” he said.
The Macri administration has taken drastic measures to save Argentina’s gas supply. These have included importing 85 million cubic meters of natural gas from Chile and launching RenovAR, an energy program designed to increase renewable energy generation for the country’s electricity supply.