December 12, 2013
Beyond the monologue
The social dialogue launched in Santa Cruz province on Wednesday was not stillborn and that is already a small victory when measured against the worst-case scenario of yet another presidential monologue to a strictly pro-government audience on the occasion of the award of a hydro-electric dam tender over which some question-marks hover. The presidential monologue (some 90 minutes) inexorably materialized but it was followed by over three hours of “productive” discussions with leaders from the manufacturing, banking, retail and construction sectors as well as trade unionists. This dialogue did not live up to its billing of “plenary” — the farming sector was not present but then neither was controversial Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno. There is a case for starting social pact talks without the most conflictive elements and gradually working outwards rather than having everybody from the start at each other’s throats — as it was, we are assured that this process will continue on a monthly basis. Nor was the other side of the table limited to tame government allies — the anti-government branches of the CGT and CTA labour groupings were absent alongside the farming sector but the financial world was well represented with misgivings about both past capital market legislation and possible future bank deposit levies.
The strongest speculation ahead of the event surrounded a possible announcement to raise the income tax floor in the light of this month’s primary results and this issue figured prominently in the subsequent press coverage. Basically, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner expressed a political will to “modify” the tax threshold (i.e. raise it in line with inflation) but not before lining up revenue alternatives, declaring herself open to proposals from the business and trade union representatives — this ambiguity of promising general tax relief while leaving open where the axe will otherwise fall is probably the shrewdest electoral strategy. The other main press noise (especially among the opposition media) concerned alleged presidential claims that Argentina was better off than Australia and Canada. In fact, she was merely pointing out that Argentina’s current indicators are superior to the two Commonwealth countries but she should know better than to compare the growth rates of developed and developing countries (almost any African country can also claim faster growth than Canada or Australia) — and also to leave herself open in this fashion.
In short, both monologue and dialogue — a CFK absolutely true to type but also exploring new styles of governance.