The austerity policies of Argentine President Mauricio Macri continued to come under fire Tuesday as a court ordered the government to justify utility rate hikes that quadrupled gas prices.
The 80-page government report complies with a court order for information to weigh whether the gas hikes follows the principles for “gradual and progressive” implementation and price increases. The court ordered the report last month.
The spike in gas prices of up to 400 percent came as part of a broader campaign to increase the price of basic utilities, including increases in the cost of electricity by up to 700 percent.
The government argues that the skyrocketing gas bills do not constitute a comprehensive change in utilities rates, which would require a more thorough public review, but a “transitional adjustment,” which can be directly implemented.
The dispute over the gas price hikes comes amid broader scrutiny of austerity policies. Last week, a city judge in Buenos Aires blocked plans to hike public transit fees in the capital city until the policies undergo a review. The subway ticket was set to increase to up to 7.5 pesos depending on the length of the journey, but thanks to the injunction will stay at 4.5 pesos at least temporarily.
The skyrocketing prices of basic services come amid a wave of mass layoffs in which 179,000 people in the public and private sector lost their jobs while the country hit record levels of inflation in recent months.
In a recent interview with teleSUR, former leftist President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner criticized Macri’s gas price hikes, saying that the situation had become so precarious that Argentines no longer know how much the gas bill will be or when they have to pay.
Fernandez argued that the Marci administration needs to start by solving the basic problems related to utilities hikes to then be able to tackle bigger issues affecting the country.