September 13, 2020
1. The Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area passed to preventive, mandatory and social distancing phase
Following a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases observed in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area, President Alberto Fernández announced the end of the mandatory isolation phase and the beginning of the mandatory distancing phase for the region, made official by Decree 875. This new phase implies fewer restrictions, such as the end of circulation permit requirements, although public transit will continue to operate exclusively for essential workers. In contrast to this recent announcement, the mandatory isolation phase remains in effect in various departments across 10 provinces.
2. New Minister of Territorial Development and Habitat
María Eugenia Bielsa, Minister of Territorial Development and Habitat, became the first national cabinet official to step aside, after resigning on Wednesday. Bielsa’s administration was one of the most questioned in the current government, mainly after the lands conflict that took place in the last weeks. In her place, was appointed Jorge Ferraresi, mayor of Avellaneda, close to the former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and also a high authority of the Instituto Patria, the Kirchnerism main think tank.
3. IMF mission arrives in Argentina to negotiate new agreement
On Tuesday, an IMF mission arrived in Argentina to negotiate a new agreement that would extend the timeframe for debt payments and reach an agreement on the payment of ARS $31.91 billion (USD $400.3 million) in Special Drawing Rights, plus ARS $45 billion (USD $564.5 million), plus interest which adds another ARS $3 billion (USD $37.6 million). Economy Minister Martín Guzmán will request that this new agreement does not entail structural adjustments – in line with frequent requests from the IMF – as the government believes Argentina has already experienced “rough changes to pensions and employment over the past couple years.” Nonetheless, there will undoubtedly be financial changes in a bid to reduce the primary deficit and changes in pensions, as pension increases will now take place on a biannual, rather than quarterly basis.
4. Government exempts series of products from Precios Máximos Program
Through Resolution 552/2020, the Interior Commerce Secretariat excluded a list of products from Precios Máximos that have “the smallest impact and the most supply within the mass consumer market.” This is a measure that companies in the mass consumption sector have been abiding by for months, as the program froze prices on a range of products, including nutrition, beverages, personal hygiene and household cleaning. This resolution will be followed by an agreement from the Ministry of Productive Development and business leaders to fix new prices on these products. The Coordinator of Nutritional Product Industries (Copal) came out with a statement requesting the end of the program.
5. October inflation stands at 3.8%
The Argentine statistical agency (INDEC) released its consumer price index – the country’s official measure of inflation for October on Thursday. The report revealed a +3.8% increase over the month prior, the highest such figure since November of last year (+4.3%) and the highest of 2020. So far this year, the inflation rate stands at 26.9%, while year-over-year figures place this figure closer to 37.2%. The highest increases in prices were registered in the clothing and footwear sectors (+6.2%), food and beverages (+4.8%), all influenced by the change in seasons and the expectation that the price ceiling program would change. Contrarily, the communication sector registered deflation of -0.1%.