Capitanich: Gov't will not accept any conditions in setting economic policy
Chief of Cabinet's Jorge Capitanich today addressed the National Senate on the government’s policies, and pledged that the current administration would continue the policy of restructuring and reducing foreign debt commitments introduced by former president Nestor Kirchner.
Unlike his predecessors in the Chief of Cabinet position, Capitanich opted to face the house during the briefing and, instead of listening to all the questions and issuing answers, implementing a question-and-answer style geared towards debate."It is good for us politicians to discuss things, we do not want economic groups, through journalists, to be telling us what we have to do," the official noted on explaining the change in protocol.The session was marked by several tense moments as the former Chaco governor addressed opposition senators in the chamber.
"I am here to comply with constitutional procedure," the minister stated at the start of his speech.
"Through the president's precise instructions we have the responsibility to establish a government with objectives and goals for the coming years. That means 204 objectives and 274 goals that were made public and are available for senators' and the Argentine people's consideration."
Capitanich also revealed that through the cabinet chief's office, "we have managed to respond to 980 [senators and lawmakers'] questions, double the average."
"[This government] will not accept any conditions or prescriptions, in any shape or form, in order to set its economic policy," the politician vowed, while explaining that foreign financing would still enter Argentina by way of multi-lateral organisations.
"Argentina will receive more resources this years that what she will have to pay in terms of debt and interest," he affirmed, stating that the funds obtained from the likes of the World Bank and the Interamerican Development Bank would be used to develop infrastructure.
The decision to devaluate the Argentine peso was also defended during the briefing. "In the last few months a model has been created based on a new exchange policy, that has stabilised the exchange rate in order to generate new stimuli in regional economies," he maintained.
Capitanich held that after devaluation, large sums of capital flow entered the country and "an extraordinary leap was seen in the productivity of several sectors, such as dairy products, beef, wheat, corn and soya" that have attracted new investments.
The minister also confirmed that plans to reform the Argentine Penal Code would be sent to the National Congress, as the politician addressed the Senate for the first time since stepping down as governor of Chaco province to take his current post in the national government.
Capitanich responded to criticisms made by several leading opposition figures over planned changes in the document, as he briefed members of the Upper House on his actions since taking over as cabinet chief.
"In judicial matters we have a series of initiatives, many of which are ready to be debated in this Congress," he affirmed.
"They are reforms such as that of the Civil and Commercial Code and which will mean discussion of the Administrative Code, laws in the Federal Penitentiary System and the Executive's project in analysis for the Penal Code."
Capitanich highlighted the investment made in educational materials for the construction of 1,600 schools, as well as the contribution of 4 million laptops and thousands of textbooks. The minister also drew attention to the plan 'Progresar' aimed at young adults, but lamented current issues derived from what he dubbed "salary conflicts".
"This does not mean anyone will lower their flags," he fired at union leaders who maintained teachers' strikes across Argentina. "Teaching consistency is important, as is ensuring that no protest is at the expense of any of our students."
Addressing Argentina's energy demands and issues, Capitanich pointed out that prior to 2003 northern and Patagonian regions were left off the national electricity grid, affecting 10 provinces.
"In the last decade 5,500km of power lines were built that integrate the North, Cuyo and Patagonia [with the national grid], which added 5,000 megawatts to the system," he asserted, while highlighting the effects of projects such as Yaciterá and in renewable energy.
Under questioning from radical senator Luis Naidenoff, the Cabinet Chief confirmed that the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration had no plans to authorise the shooting down of planes suspected to be trafficking drugs, as proposed by radical legislators and those from Sergio Massa's Renewal Front.
Calling such a law "imprudent", Capitanich recalled an incident in Peru where "a plane that was transporting US clergy members was shot down one time; it is like introducing the death penalty without trial."
Before ceding the floor to questions Capitanich had revealed the government's three key objectives for the short and medium-term. "Self-sufficiency in energy supply to reduce or eliminate fuel imports, which is why the role of YPF is strategic," he explained.
The second goal, according to the minister, was to reduce the commercial deficit in "some industrial complexes of goods and services, like the automotive industry, which creates an imbalance of some 20 billion dollars."
Finally, the politician emphasised the need to "maintain sustainable growth and improvements in quality of life," stating that "We face a great challenge."