Massa announces new freeze on fuel tax hike after conflict with oil companies

The economy minister published a recorded message Wednesday morning where he also said that the fuel shortage had been solved

Economy Minister Sergio Massa announced Wednesday morning that he postponed a scheduled hike in the liquid fuel tax to stop prices from going up “more than necessary.” He also said that the fuel shortage that had been going on for the past five days had been solved.

Oil companies confirmed to the Herald that there would be a rise in gas prices following the end of a price freeze agreement, which had been enacted following the August 13 primaries and was in place until October 31. Rises are around 7.6% on average around the country.

Different parts of the country experienced fuel shortages at the end of last week, which oil companies said was due to overdemand. Massa had given them until Tuesday midnight to solve the situation, warning that, otherwise, he would bar them from exporting. On Saturday, companies had promised to normalize fuel supply, but the situation was still ongoing Tuesday.

Massa announced the halt on the fuel tax raise via a pre-recorded message published Wednesday morning, in which he also took aim at oil companies. The last time this tax was raised was in April 2021.

“In recent hours, we’ve heard pleas to apply price raises of 40, 20, or 10%, which is much more than what this big sector of the Argentine economy needs to keep investing [in the country],” Massa said.

The economy minister said that the oil sector claimed to have a stock shortage and that now, “all of a sudden,” they had managed to re-establish supply in all gas stations. He also accused them of “benefitting from a “differential export exchange rate” and “tax cuts for imports destined to production.”

“It is my understanding that, following oil companies’ guarantee to supply enough fuel, the critical situation is over,” Massa said. 

“We will keep our eyes open, however, because we won’t let [them] harm Argentine clients just so they can increase their earnings by exporting a little bit more.” 

Massa, who is running for president and will compete against far-right candidate Javier Milei in the November 19 run-off, said that while he supports the growth of the oil sector, he doesn’t want that to be “at the expense of the pockets of Argentines.”

The government is also seeking to renew the Fair Prices program, which ended on October 31, for another 90 days. The Commerce Secretariat will aim to continue with monthly increases of around 5%. Negotiations will begin in the next few days with the companies that claim that their costs are higher than that.


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