Argentina: General Strike Planned over Government-IMF Austerity Plan

The ITUC’s affiliates in Argentina – CGT, CTA-A and CTA-T – have announced a general strike for 24-25 September in opposition to expected sweeping austerity measures being developed by the government and the International Monetary Fund. Protesters took to the streets in Buenos Aires this week, warning of extreme hardship for families already hit by spiralling inflation, prior to the return of an IMF mission to negotiate a possible rescheduling of disbursements from the Fund’s $50 billion loan.

The lending agreement was approved in June after the Argentine currency lost a third of its value in the first six months of 2018. Two weeks ago, President Mauricio Macri released a video in which he stated that the IMF had consented to a speeding-up of its loan payments. The peso promptly plunged a further 15 per cent when it transpired that no such agreement existed.

Since then, Macri and his Finance Minister have announced additional austerity measures with the objective of eliminating the primary fiscal deficit by next year rather than in 2020, as the Fund had initially demanded. The mandate of the Fund’s mission is to discuss “strengthening the IMF-supported programme”, which could include rescheduling of payments. The IMF has not announced a timeline for a possible revised agreement but government officials have told local media that they hoped to conclude by the end of this month.

The Argentine economy is already in recession and a further round of austerity measures is likely to prolong it into 2019, contradicting the government’s forecast that GDP growth will return next year. If the IMF endorses deeper austerity in Argentina, it may lead to a repetition of the downward-spiral scenarios that it contributed to in several European countries earlier this decade. Drastic “fiscal consolidation” measures supported by the IMF set off multi-year recessions in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Croatia.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “The government and the IMF look ready to impose devastating measures which will fall most heavily on workers and low-income people, and stifle any potential for sustainable development of the country’s economy. The international trade union movement stands with our Argentinian trade union colleagues in rejecting failed austerity and demanding solutions which will help the real economy rather than simply doing the bidding of financial markets”.