Long time no write, sorry. I resume the translation of the Crítica Digital article titled Los mosqueteros de la redistribución ("The Musketeers of Redistribution"), which shows how the Kirchner administration isn't Robin Hood taking from the rich to give to the poor, as they arrogantly assert all the time.
… [T]he residential natural gas fee in Buenos Aires amounts to 30 cents per cubic metre. However, four million low-income households which have no access to the natural gas supply network are forced to buy [pressurized natural gas] containers at a cost of AR$1.70/m³, that is, almost six times more. Since the devaluation [of the peso, in early 2002] the residential gas fees have been frozen; but the price of the 10-kg gas container has climbed 275%, to an average of AR$30…. [Minister of Federal Planning Julio] De Vido authorized the deregulation of the gas container market, in which [the private company] Repsol YPF is dominant, and in exchange offered the so-called "social container", which is impossible to find at the price of AR$18 suggested by the State. Even if you could get that, the price (AR$1.20/m³) would be four times that of the network gas….That is, the government forces the natural gas companies to sell their product at ridiculously low prices to a mostly middle-class public (and gives those companies a good excuse not to invest on surveying and expanding their network to less privileged areas) and allows Repsol YPF to charge six times more to the poor who aren't reached by the network, or who can't pay for a connection to it. (Until a few years ago my neighbourhood itself wasn't connected to the NG network — when it was our turn, we had to pay something in the order of AR$700 to get the pipes into our home; the equivalent price today must be three or four times as much.)
With more concern for fiscal health… in the last weeks Cristina's government started giving signs that it will unfreeze the utility fees. The astronomical growth of subsidies would threaten the fiscal balance if tax revenue were to falter in the future. … During the first semester [of 2008] the energy subsidies alone amounted to AR$8.2 billion, 295% than the same period [in 2007]. The announcement of hikes in the power fees will be followed by the slow thawing of residential natural gas fees.More about this coming soon...
The interesting thing is that the increases follow a segmented criterion: more [percent] increase for those who consume more. According to data provided by the power distribution companies, 7% of the high-income households account for 25% of the consumption. In the case of natural gas the concentration is similar.
If progressive [as in gradual?] adjustments had been applied two or three years ago, the State would have avoided a huge transference of wealth to the pockets of the less needy. Why wasn't it done before? De Vido used to explain it was not easy to identify the bills of the higher-income households, something acknowledged as possible only now.