President trumpets 40 percent increase in child welfare benefits
Head of state stresses gov’t is taking charge of those less well-off, defends income tax
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner yesterday announced a 40 percent hike in the Universal Child Allowance (AUH) that will take the subsidy for unregistered or low-income workers from 460 to 644 pesos per child starting in June.
The head of state said the scheme, which covers more than 3.4 million people under the age of 18, was an effort at “wealth distribution” and stressed the fact that it was possible because of tax policies like the income tax — a key defence of the levy at a time when the 15,000-peso floor has been severely criticized by the opposition over the last few weeks.
Registered workers will also enjoy a similar increase in family benefits that will vary between income levels.
Family assistance grants for those who earn up to 5,300 pesos will increase 40 percent — meaning they will also receive 644 pesos per child. There will also be 35 percent hikes for the second-lowest earners (432 pesos per child), 30 percent increases for middle-earners (260 pesos) and a 20 percent hike for the highest incomes, of up to 15,000 pesos a month — 132 pesos per child.
Following an announcement to fund a housing programme in Buenos Aires City, Fernández de Kirchner defended the spending on social programmes through the ANSeS, saying that despite what opponents may say, almost 78 percent of the agency’s funds go to paying pensions.
The head of state also highlighted the 2008 nationalization of AFJP private pension funds, noting that “without this step” the increases in grants for those who earn the least would not have been possible. She also touched on a hot-button political issue by defending income taxes, saying they were essential to fund social-benefit programmes.
Economy Minister Axel Kicillof and ANSeS head Diego Bossio were among the officials who took part in the national-broadcast event.
The head of the pro-government CTA Hugo Yasky was also present at the rally — as usual, he sat next to the head of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo Estela de Carlotto. In the same row was the leader of the UOCRA construction workers union Gerardo Martínez.
In her speech, the head of state referred to criticisms aimed at the national administration for the use of ANSeS pension funds.
CFK remarked that 77.7 percent of funds of the ANSeS were “distributed for pensions” — while the Universal Child Allowance and other subsidies, like grants for the unemployed, represented just a small portion of those funds. The head of state then stressed the role of her administration in the 2008 nationalization of AFJP private pension funds, and stated that “without this step, it could not have been done.”
She also went on to defend the income tax and the value added tax (IVA) as proof of “intergenerational solidarity” because active workers help fund pensions for retirees.
Her statements took place hours after the opposition CGT headed by Hugo Moyano and Luis Barrionuevo staged an anti-government demonstration to denounce poverty and demand increased security against crime.
Moyano has repeatedly demanded a hike in the income tax floor, which since last September is paid by employees earning more than 15,000 pesos in gross monthly salary. Other umbrella unions, like the pro-government CGT led by metal workers union head Antonio Caló, have already called to raise the threshold.
Earlier this week, Caló offered his resignation as head of the CGT faction if Moyano did the same as leader of the anti-government splinter.
Against ‘economic groups’
According to the president, grants and benefits given by the state during the last few years are resisted by large economic groups — whom she usually refers to as “corporations.”
“This creates tensions over the appropiation of economic surplus,” CFK said.
Near the end, during a heated part of her speech, she also took aim at the trickle-down theory, which she linked to the neo-liberal policies of the nineties.
“It’s impossible to solve the problems of the disadvantaged without affecting (economic) interests,” Fernández de Kirchner said.
Minutes later, she was already addressing a group of staunch supporters at the indoor patios of Government House, most of them young activists.
“You’ll be in charge of guaranteeing that everything that needs to be done is done,” CFK told them, aiming at groups identified as part of La Cámpora, Kolina (a social organization led by Social Development Minister Alicia Kirchner), and the Peronist Youth (JP).
Kirchnerite supporters chanted slogans and displayed flags of former late president Néstor Kirchner and former late Venezuelan head of state Hugo Chávez.
The President then put on what appeared to be a tone of farewell, saying she was proud to “have set a path for Argentina, of having led the state.”
“You’re lucky for having been born in this country after so many years where other Argentines said that nothing was worth the effort, that nothing could be done,” she concluded.
A final appeareance at another indoor patio of the Pink House saw the President defending the creation of the Culture Ministry and the appointment of folk singer Teresa Parodi as head of that department.
funds for the city
Before getting into the headline announcements, the president referred to the Procear housing scheme, unveiling a series of agreements that would expand the federal housing programme Procrear in Buenos Aires City to help build 3,841 new houses in the southern neighbourhoods.
“This is the most ambitious plan in the City’s history,” she said about new funds. “It’s great news for all porteños.”
New houses will be built on 22 acres of federal government-owned land in the Parque Patricios and Pompeya neighbourhoods.Some 110,000 houses are being built nationwide, said the president, who highlighted “the programme’s speed” since it was first announced in 2012.
Earlier, CFK received families benefited by Procrear subsidies for renovation works.
The president said that the area of the City that would most benefit from the expansion was one that had been “historically relegated” in what seemed to be a not-so-subtle criticism at the opposition PRO party led by Mayor Mauricio Macri.