President-elect Javier Milei said he wants to privatize nation-wide railway services and the public company that provides safe drinking water in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. During the campaign, Milei had already said he would privatize train services.
“Anything that can be managed by the private sector will be,” Milei said during an interview with TN news station on Wednesday. “It has been proven that anything the public sector does, it does it wrong.”
Asked if that plan would include water supply company Aguas y Saneamientos del Estado (AySA), Milei said that “AySA used to be Aguas Argentinas, which was private and worked very well.”
Water supply companies have operated through several modalities in Argentina. Former President Carlos Menem privatized State-owned Obras Sanitarias de la Nación in 1993 and turned it into Aguas Argentinas. Ex President Néstor Kirchner nationalized it again in 2006 and created AySA.
Asked about the train service, Milei said that “when they used to belong to the private sector, [Argentina] had the best trains in the world.”
Juan Domingo Perón created public company Ferrocarriles Argentinos in 1948. It managed all railways throughout the country. Menem shut it down in 1995 after years of disinvestment and sold its routes and services to different private companies. Hundreds of train stations were closed because of this, leaving many towns that were economically dependent on railways isolated.
In the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, during current Vice President Cristina Kirchner’s presidency, several publicly-run train companies were created to replace the private enterprises that managed them. In 2015, they were grouped into state-owned holding Ferrocarriles Argentinos. Many stations that operated before the 1995 privatization were reopened.
After Milei’s statements, AySA president Malena Galmarini said that the privately-owned Aguas Argentinas “only extended the [water] grid to neighborhoods that could afford it.”
“In just these past four years, AySA built 4,000 kilometers of [water] network, offering water supply to 1,500,000 million people and sewer networks to an additional 1,600,000,” Galmarini said Wednesday night in a post on social media.
She added that, according to the World Health Organization, investment in water works helps save millions of dollars in healthcare. “It’s not all the same. Not everything works badly!” she said.
This is not the first time Milei has spoken about privatizing state-owned companies since winning Sunday’s run-off. In addition to train services and water supply, he has also said he wants to apply his chainsaw plan to public media outlets, oil giant YPF, and energy company Enarsa.
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