Alberto Fernández has already defined a staggered exit from quarantine and new measures to prevent layoffs and sustain industries, businesses and services
The photo of thousands of retirees and beneficiaries of social plans that to this day continue to stand in long lines at banks to obtain funds to survive the mandatory quarantine ended up defining the path: a gradual exit to the imposed sanitary stocks by the Government to combat the coronavirus.
Thousands of poor health grandparents and men and women surviving on state aid showed the president Alberto Fernández that its slogan “health before economy” is no longer accepted by much of society.
Neither by the unions, nor the workers nor the companies, regardless of their size. No one is willing to sacrifice even more to fight the virus, even knowing that after April 13 thousands of Argentines will surely catch it too.
The economic effort involved in this sanitary combat against an invisible enemy seems to have reached its limit. This was understood by the main references of all business, industrial, trade and services sectors.
The unions and even the Head of State himself seem to have understood that society has reached its limit, fed up and that it is necessary, then, to start planning the gradual exit of compulsory isolation.
Not only because from the health point of view it is recommended if the spike in infections is extended, but also because the multiplier effect of cases of companies closing and dismissed workers may be greater than victims of the virus. The public convictions of young people with surfboards who violate quarantine seem to have come to naught in light of the thousands of retirees who also did so for a greater reason, such as the need to eat.
An unfortunate dichotomy reflected in those painful and unpresentable images of all those over 65 and displaced workers from the formal system, camping out in the open all night to be cared for on a bench, passed out, fighting, drinking cold and without respecting sanitary measures against coronavirus.
It is clear then that the urgency to satisfy the most basic needs, such as the purchase of food and medicine, decreed Friday, April 3, as the day of de facto abolition of quarantine inflexible.
It does not matter which officials are identified as responsible. Nor that it was the “fury day” of Alberto Fernández, who, in the style of the thriller starring Michael Douglas, unleashed all his anger against the headlines of the Anses, of the central bank, the bankers and the banking union.
They will surely go to the wall Alejandro Vanoli; Miguel Pesce; the unionist Sergio Palazzo and the financial sector as a whole for the outrageous attention given to all those who risked their lives to obtain money that would allow them to subsist.
This was how Fernández let these public figures know that in just one day they threw away their permanent message to put health before the economy.
He summoned them to this Friday night at the fifth of Olivos. He did not ask for their resignation but the challenge was so great that their positions now hang by a thread, more than anything because the political cost will be paid by the Head of State himself, just when his social image was the highest since he landed at the Casa Pink.
Designing the “day after” scenario
But beyond the anecdotal work situation of those who are guilty of this Friday’s disaster, there is no money in society, there is no circulation on the street, companies do not have it to pay their obligations or meet wages. Therefore, workers do not receive it either to have the chance to buy food or face the payment of public services, taxes or whatever has to be paid while the country remains locked up and paralyzed by prepo.
An example of this panic is reflected in a document circulated by all the companies in the energy sector, almost begging its clients to pay the bills, beyond the official measure of suspending the cuts to the most vulnerable sectors.
“Paying electricity bills, by those who are in a position to do so, is essential to maintain the production of electrical energy that the country requires. In addition to being a gesture of solidarity to face this emergency and overcome the critical moment we are going through” , says a document signed by energy producers, transporters and distributors in the country.
A business way of asking for “solidarity” from society to ensure the financial sustainability of the electricity sector but supporting the presidential precept of health care.
That adequate balance was exposed by the Minister of Productive Development, Matías Kulfas, during a press conference organized last Friday night. Then he spoke of a orderly departure that allows to resume more economic activities, and to monitor the comprehensive aid mechanisms that have already been announced to support production and work, and to support the level of employment and income of families in a context of companies closed or with almost no production .
The official went out to expose the official gaze to a society that no longer seems to care that social seclusion is necessary as the only effective tool so that the coronavirus does not expand further.
A society in which another need has already begun to prevail, that of knowing how to continue fulfilling the presidential precept of health first without money in your pockets, without work, charging half a salary or having bankruptcy or opening as a near horizon of a preventive bankruptcy of creditors.
This worrying scenario was the one that stained the meetings that the President held throughout yesterday with representatives of the commerce, industry and workers sectors.
Fernández started the morning with a meeting with members of the Argentine Chamber of Commerce (CAC), to then have lunch with the dome of the CGT and have a snack with the top leaders of the Argentine Industrial Union (UIA).
With everyone, he analyzed the situation in the country, reviewed the evolution of the virus from the health point of view, received support for the measures he has been taking to confront the pandemic and thanked the efforts of each one of whom these business and union entities represent.
He also promised swiftness in the application of the rescue measures already announced and that include a monetary aid of almost $ 600,000 million, which should be spread throughout society to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus on the economy of Argentina.
But with everyone he also began to talk about the day after the end of the mandatory isolation. In other words, to delineate the way in which Argentina will re-start its engines on “13A” based on gradual reactivation policies.
It became clear that after April 12 there will be no new extreme version of the quarantine. What is coming will be a slow departure with light insulation to be able to start the engines of the revival of industry, services, and commerce.
More measurements in folder
There will also be new measures that will join all those announced so far to come to the aid of all sectors at risk of continuity.
One of those decisions seems inexorable. No one denies that banks should remain open beyond the urgent measure adopted by the Central Bank to extend the hours of operation of branches during this weekend and until next Wednesday to avoid a new role in customer service. retirees.
For example, during the meeting with the members of the CAC, reference was made to this need so that businesses can operate financially adequately. Dialogue was also held on the delicate situation that trade and services are undergoing, in the context of the emergency generated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The businessmen approached him with proposals that revolved around two axes, referring to the need to establish a selective social isolation, that allows a gradual return to activity.
For these entrepreneurs it is necessary that they be authorized face-to-face tasks only to workers, outside vulnerable groups, residing within, for example, a radius of not more than five kilometers from the workplace for the first stage, then 20 km for the second, and so on.
They also asked him to establish special hours to avoid the generation of “peak hours” in transportMake them six hours and then gradually expand them.
They add that it would be necessary to relax the restrictions that affect the logistics of electronic commerce, which they consider key at the moment as an alternative to the traditional channel.
“It is essential to allow merchants to go to their premises or warehouses, with a limited number of employees and without attention to the public, so that they can sell and dispatch orders directly through an authorized parcel, mail or freight service,” he said. the holder of the CAC, Jorge Di Fiori, at the exit of the meeting.
At the same time, they asked the President to simplify bureaucratic procedures and to standardize banking service, essential for carrying out a large number of operations.
But as a special request, the head of state was told that businesses need financial and tax support. They propose that the Government grant loans instant and direct, to zero rate, which are credited to the workers’ salary accounts. The amount should be equivalent to the difference between the salary and the payment made by Anses or the Ministry of Labor through the Repro.
Postponement of payment of personal contributions and contributions and ART corresponding to the salaries of March and April, is another request from the CAC, together with the opening of a payment facility plan in six installments for its cancellation with expiration 60 days after the end of the isolation period.
They are added the 100% exemption from the payment of employer contributions from March and April salaries, extendable to the following months according to the evolution of the pandemic and its consequences; also the postponement of the maturities from taxes how VAT, to the bank debits and credits, advances of Earnings, gross income and municipal rates.
The folder that the CAC members left him with a summary of these proposals was taken by Fernández to his lunch with the main CGT leaders a day after the praise of Hugo Moyano.
The two sides of the counter
With the union leadership, the President also reviewed the measures that he has been carrying out in the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this case, he was accompanied by the Chief of Staff, Santiago Cafiero; the Minister of Labor, Claudio Moroni; and the secretary for Strategic Affairs, Gustavo Beliz.
On the union side, they participated Hector daer, of health; Carlos Acuña, of service stations, garages and parking lots; Andrés Rodríguez, of the civil personnel of the Nation (UPCN); Y Gerardo Martínez, of the Construction Union of the Argentine Republic (UOCRA).
The union leaders gave their support to the measures taken so far regarding the health issue, but they expressed their concerns about the economic consequences of the confinement not only for the workers, but also for employers and the State itself.
And they asked him to create a dialogue table, a crisis committee to coordinate the path towards the gradual exit from the quarantine that would make it possible to open up activities taking care of health but privileging that there are no layoffs.
At the end of this lunch and after having challenged the main culprits of the banking disorder in the care of retirees and beneficiaries of social plans, Fernández met with UIA leaders.
The meeting lasted almost until late on Friday night and, as with the CAC and the CGT, the center of the talks turned on the measures that should be taken starting next April 12 to congeniate the health care of society. with the rebound of the industries that are in a critical situation.
There was a consensus among those present that the banks reopen to address the lack of liquidity in the financial system that is blocking all the operations of the industries that can still function.
In this case, Fernández was accompanied by the Chief of Staff, Santiago Cafiero, and the Minister of Productive Development, Matías Kulfas. The UIA entourage was numerous. In addition to its president Miguel Acevedo, They were present Daniel Funes from Rioja, vice and spokesperson for the food sector together with Adrian Kaufmann Y Guillermo Moretti, in addition to Alberto Álvarez Saavedra (Gador Laboratory), David Uriburu (Techint), Martin Rappallini (Industrial Union of the province of Buenos Aires) and Diego Coatz, executive director of the entity.
The industrialists asked the President to advance the agenda of necessary measures to assist the affected sectors and they told him that they are completing a survey among companies that will offer as a result what are the main difficulties derived from this difficult situation. They anticipated that so far the biggest problem highlighted is the lack of liquidity to meet all obligations – including salary obligations – and the need for credit lines to effectively reach industries across the country.
They also asked him for a gradual exit that considers the need to support the production of factories and the prices of what they produce. An example is the totally paralyzed oil sector, both in production and in service stations, whose sales collapsed 90% during the quarantine.
In this sense, Acuña raised during lunch that the service stations are included in the benefits of SMEs for the postponement of maturities for the payment of employer contributions and the perception of the Repro Program.
An order that is part of the agreement that the industrialists seek to seal with the CGT to continue with the reduction of wages while the isolation lasts, especially for workers who are not currently fulfilling functions. In other words, skip the prohibition of layoffs and suspensions and replace them with the partial payment of wages, at least until mid-April.
Then, they want to broaden the agreement so that the joint ventures that have not yet been approved contemplate the serious crisis that the industry is suffering and that has paralyzed activity in the framework of the current economic situation.
In fact, many companies have already communicated to their workers that they will pay reduced in March and that this decision can be extended to April earnings.
In response to all these claims, on Tuesday April 7 there will be a new meeting between the UIA, the CGT and the Ministry of Health to begin scheduling an orderly start-up in order to gradually resume activities.
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