(Photo via Senado)

The opposition has focused it’s response to President Mauricio Macri’s address to Congress on economic issues, expressing doubt about the Casa Rosada’s diagnosis of the economy.

Macri today addressed a joint session of lawmakers and senators to formally open the legislative year, saying that the “worst is over” and predicting sustained economic growth as well as calling for improvements in education, equal pay between women and men and extended paternity leave and backing a debate on abortion.

The opposition was not impressed.

“The president did not speak about the present nor the realities of daily life of Argentines, which is clearly painful” said Agustín Rossi, chair of the Frente para la Victoria caucus in the Lower House. Rossi argued that “we’re living with last year’s salaries but this year’s prices on utilities” – a topic that Macri did not touch on during his address.

The former defense minister during the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner presidency was also critical of the president “for not speaking about the policies to stop layoffs” and noted that “the president spoke about growth, but he didn’t talk about the recession in 2016. The growth in 2017 get us back to 2015, so we lost two years, these two years of Cambiemos have been lost years.”

Agustín Rossi (left) and Felipe Solá pictured at an event calling for Peronist unity last month. (Photo via Noticias Argentinas / Daniel Vides)
Agustín Rossi (left) and Felipe Solá pictured at an event calling for Peronist unity last month. (Photo via Noticias Argentinas / Daniel Vides)

Taking a similarly critical approach, Felipe Solá of the Frente Renovador spoke harshly about the presidential address, saying that “many times we have criticized speeches by other presidents noting what was missing or in excess, but today nothing was said that was important for the present.” The lawmaker listed “the sovereign debt, the dollar, Lebacs, interest rates on credits, the costs of production and the opening up of the market too imports” as missing from Macri’s speech.

Pablo Kosiner, who chairs the Peronist non-Kirchnerite caucus in the Lower House, was also critical. “The president didn’t address the structural problems. The regional economies are in crisis, there are problems with the sugar producers, the tobacco and fruit sectors.”

“The government needs to understand that there are some warning signs. Either they accept their responsibilities or they build a narrative, something that he (Macri) has always criticized” said Kosiner. Kosiner chairs the Bloque Justicialista caucus, which  is part of the Argentina Federal group that represents the league of Peronist governors that have supported various important – and at times divisive – Cambiemos bills.

Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto (Río Negro), leader of the Peronist caucus in the Senate and the main interlocutor for governors in the upper hose, also expressed concerns. “Even if the speech had an emotional element that sought to be hopeful, I don’t share the president’s optimism on economic issues” said Pichetto, pointing to increases in the prices of services, utilities and gasoline as well as issues affecting regional economies.

On the left, Lawmaker Nicolás del Caño of the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores (FIT) was similarly critical, saying that the address “had as its objective to cover-up the realities faced by millions of Argentines. Macri didn’t mention that loss of purchasing power of the majority of workers and the pensioners that were robbed by the pension reform. He went further, saying that salaries had outperformed inflation between 2015 and 2017, which is totally false.”

Lawmakers in the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores (FIT) held aloft signs in favour of the legalization of abortion and against layoffs. (Photo via FIT)
Lawmakers in the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores (FIT) held aloft signs in favour of the legalization of abortion and against layoffs. (Photo via FIT)