Argentina’s President Javier Millay has set in motion a sweeping economic reform decree that includes deregulation and an end to export restrictions as he begins to combat the country’s severe economic crisis.
“This is just the first step,” the self-styled anarcho-capitalist whose inflammatory rhetoric has drawn comparisons to former US President Donald Trump said in a televised address on Wednesday. “The goal is to return freedom and autonomy to individuals and begin to dismantle the vast amount of regulations that have impeded, hindered and stopped economic growth.”
Millay was sworn in on December 10, and during his inaugural address to supporters, he accused outgoing lawmakers of setting Argentina on a path to hyperinflation, saying the political class “has ruined our lives.”
Argentina has the second largest economy in South America, but suffers from annual inflation of 143%, which has caused the country’s currency to plummet.
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The country also has a $43 billion trade deficit as well as $45 billion in debt to the International Monetary Fund, with $10.6 billion due to private and multilateral creditors as of April.
On Thursday, Miley signed an executive order outlining his plan to address the crisis.
Miley’s plans included privatizing state-owned companies, although he did not name the specific companies, Reuters reported. He previously said he was in favor of privatizing state oil company YPF.
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His government has devalued the local currency, the peso, by more than 50 percent since taking office, and Millay has said he must raise taxes on Argentina’s grain exports, a key source of global supplies of processed soybeans, corn and wheat. .
Milei’s push for higher taxes aimed at raising revenue in order to reduce other levies was criticized last week by farming groups who fear the move would hurt the industry.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Buenos Aires on Wednesday to protest Milei and the government’s plans. The demonstrations were led by representatives of unemployed citizens, who demanded more support for the poor.
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Miley won the presidency on November 19 amid a nationwide wave of deep discontent and growing poverty.
In the election campaign, Milei, with his wild hair and incendiary rhetoric, promised economic shock therapy and downsizing the state. He has also indicated that he will move Argentina’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – alongside another move by the Trump administration.
Millay accused his opponent, Economy Minister Sergio Massa of the Peronist party, and his allies of waging a “campaign of fear” and withdrew some of his most controversial proposals, such as loosening gun control. In his latest campaign ad, Milei looks into the camera and assures voters that he has no plans to privatize education or health care.
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Millay’s rhetoric resonated with Argentinians who were exasperated by their struggle to get by. The election forced many to decide which of the two they considered the less bad choice.
Reuters contributed to this report.