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Argentina’s prez vows to call referendum if Parliament scraps economic reforms

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Buenos Aires: Argentine President Javier Milei said on Wednesday he would call a referendum on proposed economic reforms if the country’s parliament votes against them.

Last week, Milei said he had signed an emergency decree for more than 300 reforms to liberalise the country’s economy, including privatisation, export liberalisation, a shift away from price controls, and other measures.

Only a few days after it is signed, the decree becomes official, but it still needs the support of the nation’s parliament, which has the power to veto it.

If the parliament voted against the decree, it would be the first time that Argentine lawmakers and senators have rejected an emergency decree.

While parliament is reviewing the decree, it is considered to be in effect.

“If they turn me down, I will call a referendum,” Milei said in an interview with Argentine newspaper La Nacion.

When asked about whether 20,000 and 50,000 peso banknotes will appear in the country, the president said that “it is obvious,” adding that the “topic of banknotes is a torture” as “you have to go with a bag of papers if you need to pay for something in cash.”

At the moment, the 2,000 peso banknote is the largest in Argentina but is rare, having been issued recently.

It can buy less than two kilogrammes (4.4 pounds) of sugar or rice, but it would hardly be enough to pay for a cup of coffee and a bun at a cafe.

In mid-December, Argentine Finance Minister Luis Caputo said that Buenos Aires would cut the value of the country’s currency, the peso, in half against the US dollar, as well as cut government subsidies for energy and transport.

He said there would be cutbacks to the state apparatus and that private companies would undertake infrastructure projects in Argentina without government assistance.

Inflation in Argentina hit 12.8% in November, having exceeded 148% in the first 11 months of 2023. Analysts expect inflation in the country to exceed 30% in December.

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