May 25, 2013
Three’s a crowd
The tension between the national and Buenos Aires provincial governments over the latter’s midyear bonus payments (somewhat abated for now with the inclusion of Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli in Monday’s Central Market activities and yesterday’s presidential absence in Bolivia) has been in the spotlight for the last few weeks but the mounting garbage drama in city streets should remind us that in reality there is a three-cornered fight. While City Mayor Mauricio Macri can strongly empathize with Scioli over fiscal sabotage of a potential 2015 presidential candidacy, not only does this future race also make them rivals — in a far more immediate term the garbage dispute confronts them directly without any visible national meddling. Although a strike by the Ceamse rubbish dumpsite employees was the immediate cause of this week’s problems, there can be no doubt that this crisis is grounded in Scioli’s ultimatum to Macri to halve garbage deliveries to an overloaded Ceamse site within the next month.
Garbage disposal improved yesterday but not only is this problem far from resolved (with the added risk of mischief from maverick CGT Secretary-General Hugo Moyano, who controls the transport) — any number of areas abound both holding Macri and Scioli hostage to the national government and pitting them against each other. This week’s cutback of subway services (whose impact would be worse were it not for winter holidays) reminds us that Macri has yet to come to terms with his involuntary and still resisted responsibility for the Subte (and various bus lines) minus the prior subsidies, also withdrawn from municipal buildings — not to mention the drives both to pull out the Federal Police and withdraw the court system’s deposits from Banco Ciudad. Even if Scioli manages to pay the midyear bonuses in a near future, disgruntled provincial employees express doubts whether he will be able to pay wages normally in the next few months. If Scioli complains about Macri’s metropolis dumping its excessive refuse on its less privileged outskirts, Macri could find cause for complaint in the way City hospitals become a dumping-ground for the Greater Buenos Aires sick. Etc. etc.
But perhaps the basic dilemma facing Scioli and Macri is that while they stand to gain enormously from each other’s elimination with very similar constituencies for 2015, divided they fall against a national government in an infinitely superior fiscal position (not because it is more solvent but because it can print money without the need to submit the “inflation tax” to any federal revenue-sharing).