February 5, 2021
1. Government extends price ceiling program, removes products from list
Through Resolution 112/2021 published in the Official Gazette, the government extended the price ceiling program through March 31st. In the same vein, Resolution 118/202 removed “honey” and “wines and sparkling beverages” from the price ceiling program, transferring them to the price control program. Businesses that produce, distribute and market items included in the plan are required to increase production “to the maximum extent possible and ensure the proper measures are established for their transportation and provision” during this time period. The executive branch highlighted that the decision to extend the price ceiling program is temporary. Business leaders have requested the gradual dismantling of the program, who accepted the inclusion of more items to the price control program in exchange for maintaining other items at the same price.
2. Labor unions and business leaders to meet with government, evaluate price and salary policies
Vice Chief of Staff Cecilia Todesca confirmed that the government convened business and labor union leaders to reach an agreement on prices and salaries. The proposal hopes to curb inflation, a figure that will reach 29% according to government projections. Private entities expect a higher inflation rate. Todesca stated that for the government, the 29% figure proposed for the 2021 budget should be used as a guide and require collaboration from all sectors in order to reach it. Héctor Daer, co-chief of the CGT, Argentina’s largest labor union, stated that “any anti-inflation policy will be discussed by the CGT, as we must make clear that salary discussions belong to labor unions.” Hugo Yasky, Secretary General of the CTA, another trade union, warned, “[the government’s request to meet] is necessary and important, if there is not a space where workers, business leaders and the government can meet, agreements will never be reached.”
3. Economy Minister discusses new tariff framework for public services
Economy Minister Martín Guzmán confirmed that there will be a new tariff framework for public services that seeks to lessen the burden on those who cannot pay. During an interview with television network C5N, the minister remarked, “that the state subsidizes a large part of our tariffs means that they will be paid for differently – through taxes, or taking on debt or printing more money, which always causes some problem.” On the other hand, he stated that economic recuperation and the reduction of inflation are priorities for his administration. In the same vein, he stated that this year, salaries must grow more than prices, giving a peek at the negotiation stance the government will take next week during its meeting with business leaders and trade unions. With respect to IMF negotiations, he considered that a restructuring agreement can wait until May, but under the condition that the program “respects the needs of Argentina to recuperate activity and employment.”
4. First extraordinary session of Senate yields partial approval of Competition Law reform
The Senate approved a project that seeks to modify the 2017 Competition Defense Law. The project introduces anti-monopoly laws and proposes procedural changes in the selection of members of the National Competition Authority. The bill was approved with 40 votes in favor from the governing coalition and was unanimously rejected by the opposition. Now the bill must pass the Chamber of Deputies for its final approval. The author of the bill, Frente de Todos Senator Ana Almirón assured that the changes proposed involve preventing the practice of businesses that are free to control the market and agree to increase prices internally, monopolize markets, distribute and reach agreements on tenders, instead of competing. On the other hand, Juntos por el Cambio Senator Martín Lousteau, who authored the 2017 law that will undergo changes, stated that the original law hoped to “defend those without a voice,” such as consumers and producers, as well as questioning the changes and those who make up the National Competition Authority, stating that they promote “political favoritism.”
5. The Lancet: Sputnik V vaccine 91.6% effective
Peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, published on Tuesday the intermediate results of a Phase III study of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine. The results revealed a 91.6% efficacy rate with two doses administered, 21 days apart, with nearly 20,000 volunteers. The study included 2,144 people between the ages of 60 and 87, and also showed good security results. The efficacy of the vaccine in this group was 91.8%, similar to the figure reached with the remaining participants in the study.