March 13, 2020
1. Coronavirus in Argentina
The coronavirus continues its expansion across the world with new cases and fatalities across Asia, Europe, the U.S. and the first confirmed cases in Latin America. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared yesterday that COVID-19, the disease resulting from coronavirus, can be defined as a pandemic. In this regard, the government established new measures through DNU 260/2020, such as the expansion of government powers; mandatory isolation for those who arrive from “affected areas”, have coronavirus or have been in contact with infected persons; temporary suspension of flights for 30 days and the recommendation to cancel massive events. Today, after the inter-ministerial meeting held at the Casa Rosada, the Minister of Health of the Nation, Ginés González García, declared that “it would be counterproductive to close the schools” and highlighted that the government is working to assist Argentines who are abroad and want to return to the country.
2. February inflation reaches 2%
The Argentine statistical agency (INDEC) published its consumer price index for February – the official measure of the country’s inflation. For February, this figure reached 2%, the lowest such figure since January 2018. So far in 2020, inflation has reached 4.3%. Regarding particular products, food and beverage prices have increased the most (7.5%), followed by restaurants and hotels (7.4%), and recreation and culture (7.3%). On the other hand, housing (1.3%), home goods (0.8%) and health (-1.6%) registered the lowest inflation figures.
3. Economy Minister Martín Guzmán addresses debt issue
Minister of Economy, Martín Guzmán, assured on Wednesday that Argentina needs “significant relief” in the restructuring of nearly USD $70 billion in public bonds because the country does “not have the capacity to pay interest over the coming years.” Additionally, he confirmed that the March 31st deadline for reaching an agreement with bondholders could be delayed as a result of the coronavirus. Additionally, Guzmán stated that any deal reached with creditors must put the country’s debt on a path towards sustainability.
4. Government applies non-automatic licenses to the petroleum, diesel and naphta
The Minister of Production, Matías Kulfas, announced this Tuesday the application of Non-Automatic Licenses for the import of crude oil, gas oil and naphtha in order to avoid speculative maneuvers that affect local production, in the context of the volatility of the international price of hydrocarbons. It is expected that the measure, which gives up to 60 days to analyze import operations to avoid distortions in the domestic market, will be published in the next few days in the Official Gazette. Kulfas also clarified that aviation fuels, virgin naphtha, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and fuel oil for electric energy sources, boilers or ovens will be excluded from the provision.
5. Alberto Fernández introduces free medication program, “Live Better”
Speaking from the city of Quilmes on Tuesday, President Alberto Fernández revealed the “Vivir Mejor” (Live Better) program, that establishes 170 free medications for the Argentine public health insurance program’s (PAMI) five million enrolled members. According to an official announcement, the norm includes pharmaceuticals to treat frequent illnesses like migraines, chickenpox, hives, emphysema, glaucoma and hundreds of others. President Fernández stated, “when I told you all you were no longer going to have to pay for medication, I said it knowing I was going to do it. Today I am keeping my promise.” Additionally, he highlighted that “during the first two months of this government, 86% of retirees have had their pensions increased by 18% in an economy that is slowly but surely recovering from inflation. I know this isn’t enough, but little by little we will resolve it.”