October 30, 2020
1. Chamber of Deputies approves 2021 budget
Following an extensive debate, the Chamber of Deputies approved the 2021 budget on Thursday morning with a vote of 139 in favor, 15 against and 90 abstentions. The majority coalition needed the support of non-coalition members, like the Movimiento Popular Neuquino, the Federal Coalition, and the Unidad para el Desarrollo coalition. Opposition party Juntos por el Cambio abstained from voting, aside from a small group that voted down the budget along with the leftist Frente de Izquierda. The budget considers a 5% increase in GDP, inflation of 29%, an exchange rate around ARS $102, and a primary fiscal deficit of 4.5% of the GDP, which along with debt services will reach 6%. Besides, the budget also included an increase in taxes on cell phones and electronic goods from next year, which the government of Mauricio Macri planned to reduce until they were completely eliminated in 2024. For products in general, the rate will be increased from 7% to 17%, while for products from Tierra del Fuego the rate will be increased from 0% to 6.55%. The new values are the same that these products had before the reduction made by Macri’s administration. The project will now be debated in the Senate, where the majority party Frente de Todos has a majority.
2. The Senate approved the food labeling and the interest in the manufacture of the vaccine against COVID-19
On Thursday night, the Senate approved the bill that requires non-alcoholic foods and beverages to include front labeling with black octagons warning about excesses in sugars, sodium, saturated and total fats and calories. The initiative was approved by 64 positive and 3 negative votes, among them the two representatives of Tucumán, who argued that it coud harm the sugar sector, the province’s main industry. The bill must now be debated in the Lower House. On the other hand, legislators gave the green light to the project that declares vaccines of public interest the research, development, manufacture and acquisition of COVID-19 by 56 votes in favor and 12 against it.
3. Government extends labor and production assistance program through December
Through Decree 823/2020 published in the Official Gazette, the national government extended the validity of the Emergency Labor and Production Assistance Program (ATP), with the goal of helping businesses affected by the economic crisis. The program, enacted in April of this year, will continue through December 31st. Nonetheless, the seventh version of the ATP will focus assistance on businesses in the tourism, culture, entertainment and gastronomy sectors, those indicated by the executive branch as those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
4. Productive Development Minister seeks social and economic agreement for the entire country
In a virtual meeting organized by the University of Buenos Aires, Productive Development Minister Matías Kulfas called on civil society to endorse the “Social and Economic Agreement,” stipulating that it transcend the government and reaches the entire country. Along with productive sectors, business advocacy groups and labor unions, Kulfas hopes to engage academia, different sectors of civil society and “with these consensuses [the agreement] can be nurtured, new proposals and ideas can be generated,” he remarked. Moreover, Kulfas highlighted the importance of consensus and productive policies so that “the development of a country and upward mobility in the long-run.”
5. Government authorizes border reopening for tourists from neighboring countries
Tourism and Sports Minister Matías Lammens announced the reopening of borders to receive tourists from neighboring countries by air and sea beginning next week. The measure was made official by Administrative Decision 1949/2020, which established a pilot program for those travelling to the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. Additionally, the government exempted tourism workers and tourists entering Argentina from preventative, mandatory social isolation measures. Those who enter the country must present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the visit and possess medical insurance that considers hospitalization and isolation from COVID-19.