President Mauricio Macri sent a message for new year’s on December 31st in a column published by Mendoza province’s news outlet Los Andes. Yes, it was two days ago, but we will analyze it now because we know you were too busy stuffing your face with turrón and pretending to like vitel toné – no one likes vitel toné – while watching the new season of Black Mirror to care. 2018 has already begun and surely we will go back to having the hectic news cycle Argentina has got us used to, so let’s get started.
Throughout the text, the President made a recap of what he considers are his administration’s main accomplishments ever since he took office: chief among them were his claims about the formal employment levels being the highest in the country’s history and his assurance that in 2018, the state “will make the largest social investment in history.” And while he conceded 2017 had “difficult moments” – the chaos the country was immersed in while the government approved the reform of the pensions system is probably still fresh in his memory – he said this end of the year “finds Argentines in a better place than the previous year” and assured that “the next one will be better.”
In fact, Macri made reference to the reform in the letter, using once more the government officials’ argument when defending the initiative: “we guarantee our grandparents that their income will grow more than the inflation rate.”
As you probably remember, this explanation didn’t satisfy many (any) of the government’s detractors in and outside Congress. The reform was heatedly debated amid violent and peaceful protest, as well as impromptu cacerolazos that erupted throughout Buenos Aires City, as those who stood against it claimed the measure negatively affected pensioners.
You can read all about the reform and the turmoil that reigned in the city during those days here.
The President, who spent new year’s in Villa La Angostura in the province of Neuquén, went on to emphasize that “next year’s budget bill [approved in the last days of December] foresees the largest social investment in history.” “We will keep working so all those who still wait for an opportunity can also be protagonists of the Argentine development. That is my main commitment and the goal for which I want my government to be evaluated,” Macri added, repeating what was one of the three main axis of his presidential campaign.
The last poverty index published by the INDEC statistics agency revealed that 28.6 percent of the Argentine population – 11.3 million people – were under the poverty line in mid-2017. It was the lowest figure of the Macri administration, 3.6 percent lower than the same period of the previous year.
Remember – it’s not possible to compare these numbers with the ones from the previous administration, as back then the INDEC was widely mistrusted and repeatedly accused of manipulating its statistics. Oh, and then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had said in 2015 that the country’s poverty rate was under five percent and lower than Germany’s. Macri made a veiled reference to this by saying the agency “went back to being trustworthy and we could confirm, without deception or cheating, that poverty is starting to be reduced.”
However, the Catholic University’s (UCA) Observatory of Social Debt, one of the most trusted entities when it comes to measuring poverty, released in December a report of its own, assuring the number is higher. Using different variables, it indicated that actually, 31.4 percent of the Argentine population is below the poverty line.
Macri went on to concede once more that “there is still a long way to go,” but highlighted that “this year we achieved the largest levels of formal employment in our history, with more than 12 million people who have a quality, formal job”, signaling it as an indicator that the country is taking steps forwards.
Following this line of argument, he touted the creation of “tables of dialogue with governors, the private sector and workers’ representatives to boost competitiveness and employment in different productive sectors,” and assured that with the “Pyme law” (Pymes being small and medium-sized businesses), “850 thousand Pymes were able to start growing and providing jobs to more people.”
After highlighting achievements in sectors such as infrastructure and tourism, Macri moved on to the international landscape, arguing that “we moved towards a smart integration to the world, and the world answered.” To back up this statement, he recalled that “for the first time, the WTO [World Trade Organisation’s ministerial meeting] took place in our region, and a short time ago we took over the first Latin American presidency of the G-20.”
However, the first event will be remembered for not achieving any major progress – not that Argentina could have done a lot to change that – and for the criticism received by the government as a result of its decision to ban journalists and activists of environmental and anti-globalization groups. The government then backtracked on its decision, but the damage was already done.
The President continued his message assuring that all of the year’s accomplishments happened “because Argentines decided so.” “Because inside each of us something grew that hadn’t grown in years: hope,” he added. In a less corny mood, he concluded by saying that even though “we have a long road ahead of us and will face challenges more than once,” Argentines understood that “change doesn’t happen from one day to the next.”
“[We are building] something that guarantees our children will have a place where they will be able to develop, because together we are working towards a country that has a great future ahead of it,” the letter ends.
2018, let’s see what you have in store for us.