12 June 2008

Claudio Lozano on Cristina's "political naiveté"

This is a translation of an op-ed by Claudio Lozano on Crítica Digital about Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's speech. Lozano is a left-wing economist associated with the CTA labour union, former Kirchner supporter, and now a national deputy for Proyecto Sur. He speaks of Cristina's acknowledgment that the government's only mistake when implementing the mobile tax exports was the "political naiveté" of thinking that people who earn a lot of money would tolerate the state's demanding of some of that money to give to the poor. The emphasis is mine.

I wish it were the first speech. I wish the argument of political naiveté were believable. I wish we were discussing a serious income redistribution programme while taking responsibility for the fact that in Argentina, since 2007, the economy and hunger are growing in parallel. I wish the debate of a more egalitarian relation between the Nation and the provinces were seriously undertaken. I wish we were in the presence of a government whose goal were capturing extraordinary profits to realize the proclaimed goal of "paying off the Argentinians' deficitary social account". It's a pity that it's not the case. Can it be true that they want to solve the social situation, when INDEC is under intervention and millions of poor people are deliberately hidden from view? What's the reason why the Government speaks of transferring income, and yet its social programme includes no concrete mechanism of transference of resources to families? Does the Government not know that, by just implementing a universal assignment of 100 pesos for every child, extreme poverty (hunger) would be practically eliminated among underage citizens? Does the Government know that simply by setting aside 1% of the annual GDP the issue of hunger would be solved, and with 5% of the GDP poverty would be eliminated altogether? Isn't the Fund created today a bit scarce, when we know that foreign trade taxes will bring in, this year, more than 50 billion pesos? Considering that in the last five years there's been no advance on tax reform, no advance on seizing the profits of oil, mining and fishing, and that in the case of agricultural profits this was done in a small proportion, and granting benefits that favoured the concentration of this economic sector, is today's presidential speech believable? I wish it were true. I wish it weren't just one more speech. But why do we explain what we're going to do with the tax collection above 35%? Weren't export taxes intended to redistribute income?
During five years we've heard the Kirchners and their supporters incessantly congratulate themselves on their progressivism. But nothing has been done to make this country more egalitarian. Kirchnerism has an automatic majority on both Chambers of Congress, a Congress that never refuses a command, and yet all they seem capable of doing is extracting money from one sector of the economy using the bluntest tools at their disposal. Even one of Página/12's commentators, one month after the beginning of the farmers' strike, had to acknowledge that the Kirchners' government is not reformist or progressive at all. Poverty and social inequality are much worse than they were 25 years ago, right after 6 years of a corrupt military dictatorship and a disastrous war. A huge gap still lies between the poor and rich in Argentina: the wealthiest 10% earns 30 times more than the poorest 10%, worse than during the neoliberal rule of the Menem administration. The tax system is horribly regressive: 47% of the total tax revenue corresponds to the IVA (our VAT), a tax on consumption, while you pay no taxes of any kind if you win a million through speculation or when you sell your company's stocks.

And on top of this, the president explains that the leftovers from an exceptionally high tax, imposed by the Executive branch without congressional approval, will be used to redistribute income. I mean, wasn't redistribution the main reason why they needed so much money? And if so, where's the rest of it? Because we sure can't see it anywhere.

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