Pensions, elections, mental health: LLA releases ‘omnibus bill’ reforms

Some of the bill’s most controversial points have been taken out of the bill and will be debated in Congress later in the year, the ruling coalition said

After days of horse-trading, ruling coalition La Libertad Avanza (LLA) has announced the final modifications to the massive reform package known as the “omnibus bill,” President Javier Milei’s flagship legislation. It establishes that pensions will be indexed to inflation, removes controversial articles on issues such as electoral reform, and limits the president’s power to modify export duties, among other changes.

The bill was reduced from 664 articles to 523, meaning that 141 have been removed, according to a document summarizing the changes that was circulated on Monday.

Given the disagreements they prompted, some major reforms will be addressed in Congress separately, once it resumes sessions after the winter break. This includes changes to mental health laws, the creation and management of political parties and the creation of companies, as well as the proposed abolishment of the “PASO” primary elections. Half of the proposed modifications to the Civil and Commercial Code will now be addressed during ordinary sessions.

While the original bill abolished the formula used to calculate pensions, allowing the executive power to raise them via decree, the new version establishes monthly increases indexed to inflation, starting April 2024.

Most changes were agreed with other coalitions’ blocs in the Chamber of Deputies in the past four days, although some were made directly by LLA, deputy Lisandro Almirón of the ruling coalition told the Herald.

“This is a result of a week of negotiations and of the proposals made by opposition blocs, and not just LLA’s,” another LLA source said. “The notes taken during all those negotiations were taken into account.”

The final draft confirms that state oil and gas producer YPF is off the list of state companies up for privatization and reduces the scope of the proposed state of emergency. If the bill is approved, Milei would now have legislative powers for one year instead of two, and Congress would be able to extend that period for another year.

Milei said Monday he expects the omnibus bill to be debated in the Lower House on Thursday. “We haven’t given anything up, we just made it better, always taking fiscal balance into account,” Milei told Rock and Pop radio station. 

The final version of the bill was released later on Monday afternoon. It needs the support of a majority of the chamber’s commission members to be discussed as is during the session. Other blocs could also present alternative final versions of the bill or more modifications could be made to the one promoted by LLA.

The session is expected to take place on Thursday and could potentially last until Saturday given the bill’s scope. This would make it one of the longest debates in the history of Argentina’s Congress.

The bill declares education going from kindergarten to high school an essential service, meaning teachers would have to guarantee a minimum activity level during class hours. This was already included in Milei’s economic deregulation mega-decree, specifying that they must operate at no less than 75% capacity, effectively preventing workers from carrying out massive strikes.

Regarding privatizations, the bill states that Banco Nación, the national satellite company ARSAT, and Nucleoeléctrica Argentina, which deals with the country’s nuclear power plants, could be partially privatized (not fully as the original bill intended).

There were also some modifications to the culture chapter: the bill no longer encourages shutting down the National Arts Fund, but rather limits the amount of money it can spend on salaries and other internal expenditures — it would be confined to 20% of its budget. If approved, the same rule would apply to the National Institute of Film and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA) and the National Commission of Community Libraries.

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