Privatization & Milei’s power to legislate: 2 omnibus bill sticking points

The reform package is expected to pass as a whole — but with these pillars of the reform hanging in the balance, some in Argentina’s Congress say the bill could ‘lose its leverage’

Argentina's Congress debates President Javier Milei's reform package, which proposes broad economic deregulation and massive privatization of public companies. Source: Congress press office

The Deputies debate over President Javier Milei’s omnibus bill has rumbled on into a second day — and, with over 140 deputies slated to speak Thursday, the end is not yet in sight. Two issues are proving particularly contentious: privatizing public companies and delegating to Milei the power to legislate.

The timing of the vote is an open question. Some in Congress believe it could be as soon as midnight, while others are expecting it to be Friday at 4 a.m. If there’s a recess, it could run to Friday afternoon. 

If the bill passes overall, voting on individual articles could take an entire additional day, likely Friday or Saturday. Given its scope, it could run as late as next week.

“As it is, the original text regarding privatizations won’t pass,” a source from center-right bloc Hacemos Coalición Federal said. While the government has secured the votes to pass the bill overall, they may face several setbacks when the articles are voted on individually.

Which companies could be privatized?

The original bill aimed to privatize 41 state-owned companies, including oil giant YPF, national airline Aerolíneas Argentinas, satellite developer ARSAT, and public services such as the national rail company Ferrocarriles Argentinos. 

A second version cut that list to 36, removing YPF from the list and proposing only partial privatization of three more: ARSAT, nuclear energy firm Nucleoeléctrica Argentina and Banco Nación.

Parties such as Hacemos, Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) and Innovación Federal, which will back the bill in general, will not back the privatization section unless LLA modifies it.

Their main demand is to debate each privatization individually, rather than voting on them all together. UCR deputy Julio Cobos told the Herald his party has “no problem in discussing this, but giving away a package of companies like a blank check is one of the issues that’s being debated.” On Tuesday, the bloc decided to call for a modification in the bill so that the privatization of each company could be discussed individually along with a performance report.

Hacemos deputy and former Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo echoed the call for privatizations to be discussed on a case-by-case basis. “The point is whether these companies are efficient enough or not,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they are being administered by the state or private capital.”

Lawmakers from Argentina’s interior are also asking that companies from their provinces be left off the list. “I’m willing to discuss this, but leave out the six state-owned companies from Córdoba,” said one deputy from that province.

Legislative powers for Javier Milei

LLA is also short on votes for two more key areas: the declaration of a one-year state of emergency on certain topics, and the delegation of legislative powers on those issues for the same period.

“The legislative delegations article is a turning point for the debate,” another Hacemos member said in the Lower House hallways. “If the government doesn’t succeed there, the rest of the bill will lose its leverage.”

The current version gives Milei the power to legislate on economic, financial, security, tariff, energy and administrative issues. It also maintains fiscal, healthcare and pensions issues, but the ruling coalition had already promised to remove these on Monday. The final version of the bill is not yet finished.

At the start of the session on Wednesday, a legislative secretary read out a list of over 100 articles that were being removed from the prior version of the bill, which had been approved for debate. Opposition deputy Vanesa Siley, from Unión por la Patria (UxP), described the proceedings to the Herald as the violation of institutional norms.

“When you want to remove or modify an article you have to do so during the session, not read a list out loud when the debate starts,” she said. 

So far, around half of the bill’s 664 articles have been axed.


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