Opposition parties in the Senate yesterday overwhelming voted in favour of a law to declare a “social and food emergency” in the country for a period of one year, raising the prospect of a presidential veto.
The bill, which will now be sent to the lower house of Congress, was rejected by the ruling alliance Cambiemos but received 45 votes (out of 72) from the majority opposition.
The government has not ruled out a veto from President Mauricio Macri if the bill is sanctioned in the Chamber of Deputies before the end of the year.
The bill calls for the creation of 1m jobs, a 15% hike in the Universal Child and Pregnancy Allowance, and the implementation of a “complementary social salary” for low-income, informal workers via a newly-formed Council for the Popular Economy.
Juan Manuel Abal Medina, senator for the Kirchnerist opposition Frente para la Victoria (FpV) and one of the sponsors of the bill, said that it would be a “an important step forward to move from the idea of social benefits to the idea of work.”
Abal Medina added that it would “advance towards a society that is fairer, more equal, and more integrated.”
According to the calculations of the bill’s authors, implementing the measures over 12 months would imply a budget outlay of $1bn in December and another $11bn during 2017. To counter the government argument that this would be too costly, Abal Medina said another bill has been presented in Congress to increase taxes on bonds, mining activity, and gambling.
Cambiemos Senator Luis Naidenoff criticised the proposal, saying it was unrealistic and accusing some opposition members of political posturing.
“If the desired goal is just to approve a law so that it will eventually be vetoed, all that is being achieved is the raising of expectations for a sector that is in a bad situation,” said Naidenoff, before adding that the bill was little more than a “catalogue of good intentions.”
The bill is backed by several social movements, including Barrios de Pie, which this year has organised several large-scale protests distributing free soup. It is also supported by some labour unions, including the powerful General Workers’ Confederation (CGT).
In a conference held earlier today, both groups confirmed that a march will be held in support of the initiative in downtown Buenos Aires on Friday afternoon.
“The [social emergency] law is highlighting a social need. And showing that state resources are required to assist the vulnerable sectors of this country,” said CGT leader Juan Carlos Schmid. “There are more than 4.5m workers in the informal economy, of which 1.5m are destitute.”
On the prospect of President Macri vetoing the bill, Schmid warned that “the government is responsible for its actions and its errors. Nobody knows what the political cost of that type of response would be.”