Milei deregulates Argentina's economy as austerity protests grow

Demonstrators in Buenos Aires demand President roll back some of the public spending cuts announced last week

Argentines protest as new leader deregulates economy

Argentines protest as new leader deregulates economy
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President Javier Milei announced sweeping reforms aimed at deregulating Argentina's struggling economy hours after thousands took to the streets of Buenos Aires to protest against the government's new austerity measures.

Near the famed Plaza de Mayo, scene of some of the most famous protests in Argentina's history, demonstrators on Wednesday demanded Mr Milei roll back some of the cuts announced last week, which included a halt on new public works, and the reduction of energy and transport subsidies.

The government permitted the demonstration, demanding only that participants not engage in a common form of protest called “piquete”, in which demonstrators block major thoroughfares for anywhere between several hours to several days.

The protest was relatively peaceful, with a few demonstrators scuffling with police at the start, and no major streets blocked for long.

Hours after the protest, Mr Milei, a libertarian economist who took office earlier this month, issued a Necessity and Urgency Decree, an order that has the force of law, in which he outlined about 300 measures aimed at deregulating the economy.

The decree focuses on dismantling major regulations governing the rental market, export customs, land ownership and several others, while also changing rules for the pharmaceutical, health care, aviation and tourism sectors to encourage competition.

In addition, it changes the legal statuses of state-owned companies, allowing them to be privatised.

“The goal is start on the road to rebuilding our country, return freedom and autonomy to individuals and start to transform the enormous amount of regulations that have blocked, stalled and stopped economic growth in our country,” Mr Milei said of the decree.

He told a local radio station on Thursday that the measures announced were “unfriendly” but more were on the way.

Even more protests in several neighbourhoods and in front of the National Congress followed the announcement.

The new President has vowed to make the economy his focus, and he has his work cut out for him. Argentina's inflation now sits at about 160 per cent and is hundreds of billions of dollars in debt.

Updated: December 21, 2023, 10:29 PM