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Kicillof dismisses rumours of gov’t rift

A group of reporters surround Kicillof outside the Economy Ministry yesterday.

Economy minister takes leading role emphasizing new imports policy to fight inflation

Officials from the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration yesterday refuted rumours of infighting within the national government, although Economy Minister Axel Kicillof acknowledged that different opinions coexist among the different officials and leaders.

Kicillof’s statements were known during his first news conference at the gates of the Economy Ministry, where the official took the leading role as the official spokesman in economic matters, effectively outshining Cabinet Chief Capitanich.

“Different views may coexist within the government, but then there‘s only one head who makes the decisions — the president,” Kicillof told reporters yesterday morning.

He reaffirmed the government’s policy of using imports to keep prices in check, although he raised questions about whether tomatoes would actually be brought from abroad after farmers raised complaints following the warning from Capitanich that the country would explore the possibility of importing the vegetable from Brazil.

Kicillof ratified earlier claims that the federal administration led by Fernández de Kirchner would authorize imports of certain products should supply be threatened.

Those measures will be part of the Precios Cuidados (price-watch) programme implemented earlier this month, the official added.

“Speculative moves will not be allowed,” the Economy minister said, adding that the government had implemented an “early warning system” to detect products falling under that category, mainly because of seasonal reasons, and to guarantee the supply of such goods.

“In the cases in which seasonal problems are detected, we will allow imports in order to guarantee the price that was agreed to,” Kicillof said, regarding the price deal signed by supermarket chains to keep prices of certain products in check.

Capitanich’s vow to import tomatoes took place after statements made by businessman Alfredo Coto — owner of the Coto supermarket chain — who said there could be shortage of the fruit later this month, Kicillof said.

Farmers, however, rejected his claims, insisting there would be no shortage of the product in retailers.

I say tomato

In that context, Kicillof revealed the Domestic Trade Secretariat headed by Augusto Costa will “summon (tomato) producers” to find a solution to this conflict.

“We asked the (Buenos Aires) Central Market to evaluate tomato prices — tomato is selling at 40 pesos (per kilo), there’s something fishy going on” along the entire value chain, the Kirchnerite official added.

Late yesterday afternoon, fruit producers met with Costa and claimed the official hinted that the government would not import tomatoes.

“Those who were with Costa understood that there was no way that prices would skyrocket and that, to sum up, they would backtrack on imports,” Alberto Pate, head of the La Plata Horticultural Producers Association told private news agency DyN.

Meanwhile, Kicillof also dismissed versions saying that the government would sack YPF chief executive Miguel Galuccio.

The CEO of the state-run oil company enjoys “full support from the president,” the official said. “It’s impossible (to say that the government would fire) a person who has headed the state leadership of the company,” he added.

“Rumours are funny — in fact, they’re as funny as the soap operas they’re trying to produce with the alleged quarrels of Cabinet members.”

‘Looking after the pockets’

Earlier, Capitanich had assured the government would expand the price deal and open food imports if necessary, during his regular press conference at Government House.

“The goal of this administration is to look after the pockets of the Argentine people”, the Cabinet chief said.

He then blamed producers for rising inflation, saying the phenomenon was “the result of speculative manoeuvres which affects the consumer.”

According to the official, CFK had ordered him to use “all the political measures necessary to guarantee fair prices” and the good quality of products.

In that context, he revealed that a new price deal to be signed soon would include school supplies.

On Tuesday, divisions in the economic team became evident after a series of back-and-forths over supposed planned amendments to the wealth tax.

Speculations came to an end when Kicillof emphatically rejected the possibility of modifying the way the government calculates the personal wealth tax, contradicting not only AFIP tax bureau head Ricardo Echegaray but also earlier claims by Capitanich.

“I have just talked to the president and there is no project to amend the personal wealth tax,” Kicillof said.

Echegaray’s comments had been dismissed before, when the AFIP head turned out to be the only surviving member of the economic team (along with Kicillof) after last November’s Cabinet reshuffle decided by the head of state following the loss of her Victory Front (FpV) party in the country’s five largest electoral districts in the October 27 midterm elections.

Herald staff with DyN

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