BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s government has scheduled emergency sessions of parliament beginning next week to address a package of controversial reforms by President Javier Milei, who has ordered a broad deregulation of the economy.
Milei himself issued the call late on Friday for Congress to open an extraordinary session from Dec 26 through Jan 31, following a week of protests by labour unions, tenant groups, and leftist organisations against the reforms contained in a presidential decree that needs an endorsement by legislators.
The main focus is the libertarian Milei’s mega-decree that changes or scraps more than 350 economic regulations in a country that has grown accustomed to heavy government intervention in the market.
Among the reforms, the text repeals the law on rents, which would abolish the established price ceiling. It also eliminates some worker protections and laws that shield consumers from abusive price increases, at a time when inflation exceeds 160% per year and the poverty level has surpassed 40%.
A number of civic groups on Saturday filed a judicial motion to have the mega-decree declared unconstitutional, which could end up before the Supreme Court.
Milei’s “chainsaw plan” to cut state spending – he waved around a working chainsaw while on the campaign trail this year – triggered a series of street protests against the government over the past week.
Other aspects of the decree include an end to automatic pension increases, restrictions on the right to strike, and the easing away from price caps for private health services.
Congress has 10 days to approve or reject the decree in its entirety, with no possibility of a line-item veto.
To overturn the decree, majorities in both houses of Congress must vote it down. If lawmakers fail to take action, the decree comes into force on Dec 29.
Milei’s far-right party, Freedom Advances, has 40 of the 257 deputies and seven of 72 senators, while the now opposition Peronism retains the largest minority in both houses.