Photo via TN

The Macri administration found itself embroiled in yet another controversy that ended up with the Casa Rosada backtracking on yet another decision yesterday night after the opposition found out — in the middle of a session in the Lower House — that the Executive Branch changed the system used to calculate pensions and welfare programs, such as the Universal Child Allowance (AUH), via decree. This new system would have increased pensions less than what was established last year by law.

The news caused an avalanche of criticism from the opposition, but also from members of the Cambiemos coalition. The harshest critiques came from one of its co-founders, Deputy Elisa “Lilita” Carrió, who threatened to call for the resignation of state-run pension fund Anses Head, Emilio Basavilbaso. “Learn the rules of ethics,” she screamed when speaking in the Chamber. “You [the Executive Branch] can all go fuck yourselves!” she added after leaving the floor, faithful to her firebrand style.

This, plus many other displays of disapproval, caused the Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña to come out this morning to admit that the change “may have been a mistake” and said the Government would “review” it with members of Congress. However, he also minimized its real impact and argued that the turmoil is mostly a result of some opposition members’ intention to score some political points.

“The important thing is understanding what and why it was done. The law defines an index, which to our understanding has mathematical mistakes… It may have been a mistake, but we want the chance to explain the situation and, in any case we have, to change the law,” Peña said.

Despite the backtracking and willingness to discuss the change with Congress, one of the two Deputy Cabinet Chiefs, Mario Quintana, argued “we can’t be called out for correcting a mathematical error that has a AR $20 peso impact.”

The Change Behind The Controversy

The original system established a 12.96 percent increase in pensions and welfare programs for this year’s first semester, taking the minimum pension from AR $5,661 to AR $6,394 and the maximum from AR $41,474 to AR $46,849. In contrast, the Government’s decree would increase pensions by 12.65 percent. The difference between the minimum pension’s benefits is AR $17.6.

“Anses head had highlighted the fact that the percentage would be higher than the Government’s estimates for this semester’s inflation rate (8.8 percent, according to the Indec stats agency),” the outlet explains.

Nonetheless, the change was met with outspoken criticism from most opposition leaders, including Carrió, the most notorious detractor from within.

The tweets read, “Let pensioners rest assured. We will fight,” and, “Clumsiness and inefficiency can’t be justified.”

Deputy and Renewal Front (FR) leader Sergio Massa said the change means the state will stop paying “AR $10 billion in total to pensioners and AUH recipients.” He didn’t specify how he reached that figure.

Deputy and leader of the Justicialist caucus in the Lower house, Diego Bossio, argued that the Executive Branch’s decision is an “absolute lack of respect to the rules, the law, and congressional times.” Similarly, CGT umbrella union leader Héctor Daer said this would “lead to social conflict.”

Now the representatives from the Executive and Legislative branches, as well as Basavilbaso, will get together in Congress to prevent any possibility of social unrest.