Segmented but questionable rates

The president, Alberto Fernández, assured that the update of rates proposed by the national government takes into account “the income of the people” and that the proposal “is very far from the rate hikes that were experienced in the years of (Mauricio) Macri” . The interview given by the head of the Executive to the Spanish newspaper El País became public at the same time as the first public hearing for energy rates was held, in which the Secretary of Energy proposed an average increase of 20% in the service of the natural gas for users without a social tariff. For those who have this benefit, the current values ​​will be maintained, according to the official proposal.

“We proposed an adjustment of rates following a law that those who have now opposed voted, which proposed adjusting them by a salary variation coefficient, which is what we have done,” said Fernández. And he concluded that the proposal is to adjust the rates “taking into account the income of the people. That is very far from the rates that were experienced in the years of Macri.”

The scheme was presented before the public hearing, which took place online, by the Undersecretary of Hydrocarbons, Maggie Videla. The meeting began this Tuesday and will take place over three consecutive days, that is, until Thursday. The three days of public debate constitute the first step for the Secretary of Energy to establish the rate schemes that will govern as of June.

The first of the three sessions was focused on considering the new prices of natural gas at the Point of Entry to the Transportation System (PIST).

Maggie Videla recalled that tariff increases were finalized in February and, taking gas distributors from four different regions as an example, pointed out that due to the variations approved in a timely manner, “it would not be appropriate to make any corrections” in the case of the beneficiaries of the social tariff.

As for those who do not have this benefit, which Videla characterized as “common citizens”, the increases arranged in February were between 13.7% and 20.5%. Consequently, the increases for these users should be, according to the examples presented by the official at the hearing, from 18% to 25.5%.

As a summary, the undersecretary pointed out that “users without a social rate, ordinary citizens, would have a 20% increase in bills.” The official highlighted the “conviction” of the Government so that “the rates have corrections below the evolution of wages.”

Most of the exhibitors who participated in the first of the three public hearings to analyze proposals for adjustments in energy rates expressed their disagreement with what they considered to be a limited time to speak and a lack of information about the exploitation costs of gas and profits. of generating, transporting and distributing companies.

They also requested a review of the dollarization of gas prices at the wellhead and in some cases demanded that the increases proposed by the Ministry of Energy not be applied, not only for the beneficiaries of the social rate but also for those who do not have this condition, both residential users and SMEs.

The hearing lasted three and a half hours and included the participation of 25 of the 38 registered speakers, most of them representatives of consumer defense entities and ombudsmen from different jurisdictions.

For his part, the mayor of Esteban Echeverría’s party in Buenos Aires, Fernando Gray, asked that the increases be postponed because he understood that “it is not an opportune moment” and that their application “would affect not only the vulnerable sectors but also those of middle class, SMEs and public welfare entities”.

Raúl Zavalía, from the Fundación Pro Vivienda Social, expressed himself in the same vein, stating that “it is paradoxical that we are discussing rates when 50% of Argentine families do not have access to the gas network”, in addition to warning that ” what we save through subsidies we pay for through inflation”.

The head of the Defense of Users and Consumers (Deuco), Pedro Bussetti, expressed his “displeasure” for having established an exposure time of five minutes instead of ten as in previous hearings, while Paula Soldi, from the Center for Studies for the Promotion of Equality and Solidarity (Cepis), demanded more information about “the true costs” and the profits of the licensees, so that “the sustained growth of our economy is not carried away by four or five types.”

The review of the energy subsidy scheme was one of the points agreed upon last March between the national government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), upon announcing the refinancing of the US$45 billion debt that the country maintains with the multilateral credit organization. .

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