The numerous protests and growing tension seen in the Province of Santa Cruz over the past week have turned the public eye to the precarious financial and social situation taking place in the territory governed by Alicia Kirchner.
That’s why in the aftermath of the last protests — which turned violent and ended with four people getting injured — representatives from both the national government and the Kirchnerite party have been trying to assign the blame for the province’s economic woes to the other political camp.
However, while crossing accusations continue, the national and provincial administrations still need to find a joint solution to the problem. The Macri administration continues to send the financial aid the province desperately needs, but conditioned future payments to the building of a plan to lower public spending.
“They have to own up to this situation because the people are going through a very rough time,” said Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio. “If there’s a serious plan to get their accounting in order and join the effort the national administration is making and gradually work to reach fiscal equilibrium in 2019, we will help them, just as we help all other provinces with the meager resources we have,” he added.
Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña expressed himself along the same lines: “we are worried about Santa Cruz and we express our solidarity with its citizens. There’s a broken government that has been in charge for the past 25 years and that doesn’t own up to the situation. On the contrary, they pin the blame on someone else and play the victim role,” he said. He was making reference to Kirchner’s statement after Friday’s protest, when she said that the Macri administration is pushing her out of power as a political victory ahead of October’s congressional elections.
To cement their argument, national government representatives point out that, at least until last Friday, the Southern province received more than twice the funds per inhabitant than the national average. According to a report released by the Federal Commission of Taxes (CFI), Santa Cruz received almost AR$ 10,000 per inhabitant from the national government, when the country’s average is AR$ 4,621.44.
To put the numbers in perspective, the national state destined AR$ 3,346 to each resident of the City of Buenos Aires and AR$ 2,204 to the ones from the Buenos Aires Province. So, as a result of what Macri administration officials claim to be a serious mismanagement of public funds, they requested the province elaborate a “serious plan” to reduce public spending. Lowering the number of public employees and reducing the deficit in the pension fund are among the main requests.
However, governor Kirchner has already ruled out one of the two: “What’s a serious plan? Firing people? I will never do that,” she said in a radio interview. “I bet on talking things out with the national government and I will continue doing so. The reality of each province needs to be respected, and it’s upsetting that they say there’s no serious plan.”
The governor went on to say that the province’s financial situation “is urgent,” and that “we are working on securing a line of credit, which would be a temporary solution while we secure a loan. I get very little help from the national government, maybe because we have ideological differences,” she said.
However, the governor did admit when she took office — something that happened at the same time Macri became president — that the situation she inherited from the leaving administration was already quite complicated.
Her argument about the province’s current woes mostly having to do with her political disagreements with the current government become even shakier when taking into account that Santa Cruz was the third province that got the most public funds from the national government between 2010 and 2015 with 17 percent of the total, even though it has less than one percent of the country’s population. Only Buenos Aires, with 48 percent, and Jujuy, with 18 percent, received more. Despite all this, the province needs to secure a line of credit to pay this month’s salaries.