03 September 2008

Musketeers of redistribution: Guillermo Moreno

This is the third and last installment of my translation of the Crítica Digital article titled Los mosqueteros de la redistribución ("The Musketeers of Redistribution"), which shows how the Kirchner administration has failed to redistribute income, which they claim as their main economic goal. This time it's about the worst offender in many respects, Secretary of Commerce Guillermo Moreno. This is what the article says about him:

In theory, his mission was to keep inflation from diluting the purchasing power of fixed-wage workers and retired citizens. The price agreements that he signed with companies at the beginning ceased being complied with long ago, except for [the statistics bureau] INDEC, where Moreno draws the lines of his private world.
Of course I've already written about INDEC and its ridiculous, obscenely faked figures of inflation, which the government continues to defend as true. Moreno is de facto leader of INDEC, which used to be a purely technical organization, fairly independent from the national government and thus trustable, until Néstor Kirchner decided he didn't like reality and let Moreno appoint his minions in places of power there. And that's not all.
[The manipulation of INDEC's figures] is a well-known story. Less known are [Moreno's] practices to favour concentrated companies, consolidating monopolic or oligopolic markets. For Moreno, competition is [a subject] for textbooks. He has always chosen commanding phone calls and verbal agreements with the major actors in each economic sector (cereal producers, mills, supermarkets, dairy companies, food companies, etc.) over transparent regulations that might discourage [the formation of] concentrated structures and encourage competition.

The removal of José Sbatella from the leadership of the National Commission for the Defense of Competition, key to the enforcement of anti-monopoly laws, is the culmination of that process. Sbatella, a professional with a long career, ruled against the Cablevisión-Multicanal merge, which two of Moreno's deputies in the Commission approved on the last day of Néstor Kirchner's term; Sbatella also set conditions for other multi-million [company] purchases in the food sector, which were not taken into account.
Guillermo Moreno is the kind of official that any sane administration would get rid of as quickly as possible, preferrably offering him (as compensation) a trip to some faraway land. Cristina Kirchner's unspoken excuse for keeping him is that everybody in the opposition and the major media is asking for Moreno's head, so firing the guy would be interpreted as a sign of weakness. I can understand that, but it also shows quite plainly that Cristina cares more for an appearance of overwhelming power and firm determination than for doing her job well despite her personal pride.

Moreno is a wrench in the most sensitive part of the economic machinery; the more he stays, the more difficult it will be to restore the credibility of the government regarding inflation and their goal of reducing poverty. Right now we don't know how many poor people there are in Argentina, but we know for sure they're many, many more than Cristina Kirchner and Guillermo Moreno would admit.

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