President Mauricio Macri has sought to shore up political support for his government from with moderate Peronist governors at the Casa Rosada while other sectors of the opposition have requested that any financial support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) be discussed with Congress.
Treasury Minister Nicolás Dujovne met with IMF Director General Christine Lagarde in Washington, DC today; Lagarde arrived in the United States yesterday. After it became clear that Buenos Aires is negotiating the terms of a Stand-By Arrangement which likely will include certain conditions, Macri met with Governors Juan Schiaretti (Córdoba), Gustavo Bordet (Entre Ríos), Juan Manzur (Tucumán), Sergio Uñac (San Juan) and Domingo Peppo (Chaco) at the Casa Rosada.
Also present were Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio, who handles the management of the political relationship with provincial governments, and Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña.
Télam has reported that the purpose of the meeting was to go over some of the terms of the ongoing talks with the IMF and economic policy in general. Yesterday, Marcos Peña defended the government’s record and tried to stave off any kind of worries about an impending crisis resembling Argentina’s 2001-2002 economic cataclysm.
Meanwhile in the foreign exchange market, the peso yet again hit a new nominal record against the US dollar – closing at 23.22. The Central Bank reportedly sold about US $100 million to prop up the peso, resuming an intervention that it had held off on in the last few days.
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The government also met with Misiones Governor Hugo Passalacqua, Santiago del Estero Governor Gerardo Zamora, Tierra del Fuego Lieutentant Governor Juan Carlos Arcando, and Buenos Aires Governor María Eugenia Vidal, as well as Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
The meetings took place soon after the Lower House voted last night to approve a bill capping utility hike increases. The bill, drafted by the opposition and passed in the face of loud criticism from the ruling Cambiemos coalition, broadly sets out that electricity and natural gas bills cannot increase at a rate greater than wages do and that they be rolled back to November 2017 levels. The Senate, where once again Cambiemos has a minority, is dominated by provincial interests and will soon address the bill. Although the government has already promised to veto the legislation if it makes out of the Senate, it would prefer to avoid the political cost of doing so.
In response to news about the start of negotiations with the Fund, The CGT and CTA umbrella unions have already made it clear that they oppose any kind of financial deal with the IMF as well as any kind of austerity.
On the other side of the proverbial aisle, Kirchnerite lawmakers like former Economy minister Axel Kicillof have questioned the government’s decision to not discuss any of the details of the pending IMF deal with Congress. Kicillof today attended a meeting of the bicameral commission on public debt that didn’t session because quorum was not reached as Cambiemos lawmakers did not attend.