Photo Ojo Obrero Fotografía
Economic disaster is on the horizon. Far from mitigating it, the measures announced by the government are stoking the fire.
The default that began with the debt reprofiling is expanding rapidly. The week began with the news that those who resided abroad and possessed corporate and provincial bonds could not collect what they were owed.
These restrictions also extend to commercial transactions. There are growing impediments to imports, as companies are unable to pay what they owe their providers.
What's paradoxical is that Macri's regulation of dollar purchases is even more restrictive than the one during Kirchner's term. The latter didn't go as far as hindering the payment of corporate financial and, even less so, commercial debts.
It's not surprising that Neoliberal governments end up being even more interventionist than populist and nationalist ones. Capitalist politics have no ideological prejudice and make use of any kind of resources, as long as they serve their needs and interests. Macri's politics are not an exception.
What is certain is that in case of these policies persisting, corporations and provinces would enter into technical default. This amplified regulation of dollar purchases confirms that the "reprofiling" is not enough to honour debt payments from the present till the year's end. There are those who would go farther and point out that the math doesn't add up even to make it to the election, at the end of October. This prediction gains strength with the confirmation that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will not disburse the 5 billion that were agreed upon. The precariousness is such that the government even hesitated in paying the maturity of a coupon of accrued interest of the Bopomo 2020, which is due to expire in the coming days. As a default of the debt in pesos would translate to an admission of extreme sovereign bankruptcy, the government has opted to pay for said bonds, taking the risk that all those pesos go to dollar purchase, thus disrupting the precarious foreign exchange stability of the last week. The government will pay at pensioners' expense, because they have burdened the Sustainability Guarantee Fund of the Argentine Integrated Social Security System with two Treasury Bills in order to pay the Bopomo to Pimco, one of the main investment funds of the world, and other speculators.
International rating agencies are analysing whether to return Argentina to the "frontier market" category, as it was when president Macri took office.
Meanwhile, the exchange restrictions fan the flames of industrial and productive recession. The obstacles to the supply chain and foreign trade are joined by the growing paralysis of key sectors such as real estate. The decision of relaxing the restrictions for purchases of properties valued in less than 146,000 dollars, in order to buy a first house, is far from being able to revert said retrenchment.
Another open front of this crisis is that of the energy sector. The rise in international oil prices, as a result of the conflict in Yemen, has widened the gap regarding the internal prices of petrol, which are calculated according to a dollar at 40 pesos. The clash between corporations and the government is escalating rapidly. The tensions also extend to the provinces, as they must give up on oil royalties due to the price freeze. The government's offer of compensating the loss with a subsidy was considered a joke by Omar Gutiérrez, the governor of Neuquén, who pointed out that the offer of the Finance Ministry only represented 10% of the money lost and is also an extorsion, as it forces the provinces to renounce the right to litigation for the difference.
The gap widens
Macri's government can't really give itself a pat on the back for the so-called calm in the exchange rate either. This is due to the gap with the parallel market becoming wider. The dollar in the labelled "contado con liqui" (trading of bonds in pesos purchased in the country which are then negotiated in a foreign market), is the go-to that large operators stick to in order to acquire dollars, quoted at 70 pesos. This anticipates further devaluations. There are calls already, even within the government, to come clean in some manner regarding this situation and propose a formal differentiation in the exchange market.
For the time being, said gap has speculators in for a fabulous bargain. But this gap is also starting to incide substantially on internal prices as well. "Some businessmen are already re-pricing according to a 70-peso dollar in the 'contado con liqui'" (Ambito, 16/9).
The impact of the devaluation is pushing a price hike of such a magnitude that a hyperinflation has become a considerable risk. The fact that wholesale prices have gone up 11% in August is a warning in this sense.
This collapse has concluded the bankruptcy process of the Argentine Central Bank. Therefore, it's not a suprise that the recently published review shows negative worth, which translates to a negative difference of more than 370 billion pesos between assets and liabilities. The slump in public debt securities, international funds in freefall and a considerable rise in debt bonds started to undermine the stability of its accounts. The Leliqs (bonds with an 80% interest rate which banks that have loaned to the Central Bank possess) have become a time bomb.
Take to the streets
The so-called "reprofiling" emerged stillborn. Not only will it not be discussed by Congress, but everything points at it not being instated by presidential decree either.
The IMF and big capital have dilated their deadlines in order to negotiate the whole debt restructuring with the new government. That is when the work and pension reform agenda will return to centre stage, in the context of a social pact which would cancel any wage rise discussions for 180 days.
In the meantime, there is a tacit agreement operating between frontrunner candidates Macri and Alberto Fernández, in order to allow the economic disarray as a part of the default, to do their dirty work, degrading the masses' living conditions. In the midst of the current transition, we are in the presence of a carefully diagrammed containment plan. The unions' truce is a key element of this political stratagem. The union leaderships follow the script which Alberto Fernández has given them, in other words, his call to "avoid the streets".
The "food emergency" law with which they have capitulated to certain needs and demands, is used as a smoke screen in order to maintain the truce. The so-called "piquetero-triumvirate" seeks to close shop and retreat, once the law is passed by the Senate, while the fundamental demands which motivated taking to the streets in the first place will still go unanswered.
"Social peace" is a central condition for the current offensive's success, but above all, the new attacks to come as a consequence of the renegotiation of the debt and the agreements with the IMF will be in the hands of the incoming government.
This is the base of the prosecution which "piquetero" leaders have been suffering, like Belliboni or Kuperman, and the threats uttered by Hebe Bonafini towards Pitrola and Del Caño.
In the middle of this scenario, the uprising that the workers of Chubut have been leading acquires huge relevance. The province is standing its ground against the pro-austerity and pro-Alberto Fernández governor Arcioni.
The same goes for last week's powerful "piquetero" movement campout on 9 de Julio Avenue, which challenged and defeated repression, and for the strike and protest that Sutna (the Unified Union of Tyre Workers) carried out for the reopening of salary negotiations.
We are before an effort to break out of the straitjacket which pervades in the workers' movement today as a part of the union bureaucracy's truce. We must also add the brave, but still isolated, conflicts of sectors of the workers' movement, such as the one that Ansabo workers just spearheaded by occupying the factory.
In this context, the deliberations and resolutions adopted by the open national plenary held in Sutna's campsite in Pilar last weekend, constitute an important point of support in order to bolster a collective response of the working class. It constituted an important clarification regarding the content of the social pact which is being cooked up and it established a political delimitation with Kirchnerism and the union bureacracy, which are both calling for calm seas so as to not interfere with the election campaign. The plenary that met at Sutna's campsite decided on a summons to take the streets on the 24th of September, with the array of demands that are driving the current struggle as a centrepiece.
To the present upheaval and the Capitalist alternatives in play, we must pose a programme so that the crisis is paid for by the Capitalists and which strives to open the door for a working-class way out of the national bankruptcy. This programme includes: the reopening of salary negotiations, a raising of minimum wage to 35,000 pesos, with revisions tied to inflation, a doubling of the sum of social aids and social aid for any new jobless person, the prohibition of lay-offs and suspensions, the occupation and productive continuity guaranteed by the State of any company that closes its doors; all of this as a part of an integral economic plan of the working class which rejects the payment of the debt and vies for the nationalization of the banking industry, foreign trade and energy, including the opening of accounting books, also levying progressive taxes on large profits and fortunes, as well as general working-class control. The current period reinforces the necessity of a national active strike of the CGT (General Confederacy of Work) and all other unions, and also the need for an employed and unemployed worker's Congress with assembly mandates, so that workers take centre stage.
The campaign of the FIT-Unidad (Workers' Left Front-Unity) in this convulsive transition increases its value twofold in view of the positioning of this programme and perspective, which must contribute to the irruption of workers in the political state of affairs.