Fernández keeps foreign policy cards close to his chest

por Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Times, 26-10-2019

“We need to to do this seriously, Mr. President,” Alberto Fernández told Mauricio Macri during the first of the two televised presidential debates that took place earlier this month. “It’s not enough with photo-ops and a G20 summit.”

The person most likely to be elected as the country’s next president has not run a foreign-policy focused campaign. But with a very weak economy, mounting debt, shrinking Central Bank reserves, a record bailout package from the International Monetary Fund to take care of and a troubled region with rising unrest, many are now wondering what exactly the foreign policy of Fernández-led administration would look like.

“Alberto Fernández has given very few clues that could lead to a comprehensive approach to diplomatic policies,” Rafael Gentili, president of the progressive Laboratorio de Políticas Públicas (LPP) think-tank, told the Times.

Some moments during the campaign, however, hinted at an approach, such as his trip to visit Spain and Portugal after the PASO primaries.

“If we were to interpret some of the hints he gave, we could assume his focus would be on the European Union and no longer on the United States, with progressive governments from the Iberian Peninsula and [Spanish politician and] future EU high-representative Josep Borrell as his privileged partners,” explained Gentili.

Most analysts believe that the Frente de Todos candidate, widely seen as the leader of a centre-left coalition with leftwing components, will have no choice but to sit down and sort things out with Donald Trump.

“The United States was a key actor in convincing [and imposing] a sceptical IMF board over the stand-by agreement with Argentina and there’s no way a new deal can be agreed without that support,” Gentili said.

Last week, the Infobae news portal reported that Edward Prado, the US ambassador to Argentina, had began chatting with Fernández and had asked Jorge Argüello, a former Argentine ambassador in Washington and key adviser to the presidential candidate, to organise an under-the-radar meeting with Fernández running-mate, the divisive Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Contacted this week by the Times, Argüello declined to comment before the electiontakes place.

“The Fernández-Trump relationship will be indispensable,” Andrés Malamud, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, told the Times. “Without the US there is no IMF, and without the IMF, the country goes into default,” he added.

Gentili, a former Buenos Aires City lawmaker for Movimiento Proyecto Sur, said that for all the rhetoric surrounding Fernández most of his allies are well aware of the fact that the only alternative is pragmatism.

“It’s not only Fernández’s own instincts — the [Peronist] governors supporting his candidacy and Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front are far from being anti-American,” the political analyst explained.

Indeed, Massa is a man with ties in Washington, including a relationship with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who now – conveniently – serves as Trump’s personal attorney.

To complicate things even further, the US is currently waging a trade war with China that may have dire consequences on the economy and an unpredictable impact on financial markets. In this context, foreign policy choices are not neutral: as political tectonic plates are shifting, a potential Fernández presidency would have to decide the nature of the country’s relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“If we don’t have a good relationship then it would be a stupid one,” Malamud said. “China is one of the two world superpowers, and a peripheral and vulnerable country like Argentina must diversify its foreign and commercial policies in order to prosper.”

Gentili believes that the relationship between the probable new government and the Asian giant and will be both “tight” and “discrete,” oriented toward maintaining Chinese commitment in a number of key areas: the currency swap between the Argentine Central Bank (BCRA) and the People’s Bank of China, the construction of a new nuclear plant in Buenos Aires Province, hydroelectric projects in Patagonia and a number of investment projects in lithium, oil, gas and mining.

“All of these without trying not to upset the US,” reflected Gentili, the LPP president.

A TROUBLED REGION

A crucial ingredient in foreign affairs will be the countr y’s official stance towards Venezuela amid Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to unseat Nicolás Maduro, the authoritarian ruler of the Caribbean nation.

Earlier this month, Fernández vowed to abandon the Lima Group, a multilateral body that seeks to up global pressure on Venezuela’s Maduro with the sole mission of regime change. That body was instrumental in the recognition of National Assembly chief Juan Guaidó as the troubled-country’s legitimate leader.

When asked for further elaboration on his position, the Peronist candidate said he admired the stance adopted by Uruguay and Mexico, a more neutral position that calls for increased diplomatic pressure regarding the violation of human rights by the Maduro government, while ruling out any kind of foreign military intervention in the country.

“President, I hope no Argentine soldier ends up on Venezuelan soil,” Fernández declared on October 13 during the presidential debate in Santa Fe.

According to Gentili, it’s still too early to tell whether the frontrunner’s attitude towards Maduro once he reaches the Pink House will be closer to the tough line of national lawmaker Sergio Massa or the lukewarm support of the regime stemming from the Kirchnerite youth group La Cámpora, whose leaders claimed that the Maduro government was “not a dictatorship” and that the violence on the streets of Caracas could be explained as the result of a failed coup d’état orchestrated by the US.

“Venezuela will be an uncomfortable subject due to the lack of internal agreement among Frente de Todos leaders,” the LPP president said.

“If the Frente Amplio achieves its re-election in the upcoming Uruguayan elections, we may expect the ‘critical’ line to win and see come pressure against Maduro regarding the democratisation of Venezuela and the denunciation of human rights abuses in the country. If it doesn’t, the Argentine government may lose interest in the subject because of the lack of regional partners that could help them outline a critical position palatable to Cristinistas.”

Malamud had a more detached view of the Venezuela issue, saying the Argentine position regarding the Venezuelan crisis has “little significance in geopolitical terms” and that the closer ties with the Latin American left will be necessary to “compensate in symbolic terms for the austerity measures that will have to be adopted” by the new government.

As neighbouring Chile faces the worst social unrest since the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Fernández is also strengthening ties with Marco Enríquez-Ominami, a progressive and three-time presidential candidate.

Fernández and Enríquez Ominami were some of the founders of Grupo Puebla, a group of centre-left leaders that includes former presidents Rafael Correa from Ecuador, Fernando Lugo from Paraguay, the Brazilians Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, as well as Spanish leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

The first meeting of Grupo Puebla took place in Mexico in July, with the presence of a number of close Fernández allies such as Carlos Tomada, Jorge Taiana and Felipe Solá.

According to Revista Noticias, a second meeting is expected in Buenos Aires next month and Fernández could be among the participants.

A shift left will not please everyone in the region. A further problem for Fernández, Gentili added, is that the Peronist leader’s idea to strengthen the Mercosur trade bloc that Argentina shares with Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. This “will be difficult with Brazil ruled by [right-wing leader Jair] Bolsonaro and [his Economy Minister Paulo] Guedes.”

Bolsonaro, Brazil’s outspoken and controversial leader, will be a problematic issue for the frontrunner, should he win the election. Earlier this week, the far-right president threatened to slap Argentina with sanctions from the Mercosur, should Fernández seek to shift the trade bloc away from free trade and back toward protectionism.

A Frente de Todos victory “would jeopardise all of Mercosur,” Bolsonaro said during comments in Japan, invoking the previous expulsion of Paraguay from the bloc in 2012 as precedent. My role is “not to facilitate the formation of a Bolivarian movement on the left, but to open the market for global commerce,” he added.

Reports in the Brazilian press this week said tensions with a Frente de Todos government were sure to generate doubts about the historic trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union, one of President Macri’s major foreignpolicy accomplishments. And that’s not the only issue likely to create tensions.

THE MALVINAS ISSUE

Over the last four years, relations with the United Kingdom have greatly improved, especially given the less confrontational stance adopted by Macri since he took office in 2015. The issue of the disputed Malvinas (Falkland) Islands has been less of a hot potato, unlike in the latter years of the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner governments, when the topic regularly made the headlines.

With that in mind, it may have come as a surprise that the part of the first presidential debate dedicated to “international relations” was plagued with references to Malvinas, made by not only by Macri and

Fernández but also by other presidential contenders such as Roberto Lavagna, Juan Gómez Centurión and José Luis Espert. Fernández broke his silence over the Malvinas issue, saying he aimed to end what he saw as a perceived lack of progress on the sovereignty dispute under the Macri administration.

“During these years the government was very busy trading with Britain and forgot about our sovereignty over the Malvinas. But we will insist again. In memory of those soldiers, I’ll make sure things are different,” the Peronist contender exclaimed.

A clear break with previous position. But what does this mean, exactly?

The LPP headed by Gentili foresees “a strategy of sovereignty rhetoric without abandoning completely what Macri has achieved,” reaching a certain plateau but with no further progress. “That being said, we don’t rule out the Malvinas issue being a handy issue to bring up if the economy or other domestic issues take a turn for the worse,” the analyst said.

Ricardo Kirschbaum, the general editor of the Clarín newspaper, wrote an op-ed along that same line last Saturday, saying that reviving the issue of sovereignty “could serve as a diversion from the serious economic difficulties and the painful decisions that the government may have to take.”

For Malamud, the country won’t find any material rewards in Malvinas, at least in the short run, with goals that can only be symbolic or part of a long-term strategy. “In both cases I expected some difference in attitudes, but not in results, regarding the policy adopted by Macri,” he said.

Much, it seems, is still to be defined. Come Monday morning, we should start to get a clearer idea of things.

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Argentina votes new president with Alberto Fernández the strong favorite

by Federico Poore
The Essential, 24-10-2019

Many thought he wouldn’t even make it, but Argentina has reached election week and President Mauricio Macri is still standing. Even more, over the weekend he enjoyed the best 48 hours of his administration since his coalition’s crushing political defeat in the August primaries.

Does than mean that he stands any chance of being re-elected? Not at all, say the pollsters. In fact he may even lose to Peronist favorite Alberto Fernández by a wider margin than the one seen on the August 11 primaries.

But there are ways and ways of losing. And right now, that’s the key to the whole thing.

The impossible comeback
Last Saturday, Macri called for a near-impossible comeback as he headed the #SíSePuede march in downtown Buenos Aires. According to La Nación, 320.000 people attended the rally in 9 de Julio Avenue.

“We are going to turn the election around,” the president promised supporters from the stage, where he was flanked by his running-mate Miguel Ángel Pichetto. A day after, he was widely seen as the winner of the second and last round of televised debates between all presidential candidates.

“Macri got the upper hand in the debate, and finishes his campaign in an astounding ‘in crescendo’, which is especially noteworthy for a trailing candidate,” sociologist Marcos Novaro wrote in an analysis for Todo Noticias. “However, this effort will hardly have an impact on the consolidated polling numbers.”

The latest surveys predict a major win by Fernández. According to the Federico González y Asociados consultancy firm, 54 percent of voters said they would cast their ballot to support the Frente de Todos leader compared to just 31.5 percent for Macri. A separate nationwide poll published on October 17 by Ricardo Rouvier & Asociados has Fernández winning in the first round with 52.3 percent of the votes against 34.3 percent for the incumbent. (According to the local rules, if a candidate gets more than 45 percent of the valid votes, or more than 40 percent with a 10-point margin from the runner-up, the election is over and there is no need for a runoff in November.)

Speaking to the base
“The main novelty of the campaign is that Macri has tried hard to turn around the results of the PASO primaries and has adopted a more traditional campaigning style, with rallies and a direct relationship with voters,” Ricardo Rouvier told The Essential. “I don’t think neither this nor the televised debate will change dramatically the results of the election, but it confirms his attempts of pandering to his hardcore voter base.”

The president is taking no prisoners in his last-ditch attempt to exacerbate polarization. During the last televised debate he drew a clear line between “us” and “them” (them being the Kirchnerite favorites) and engaged in a savage exchange with Fernández, whom he accused of covering up serious corruption charges during the administrations of Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015).

This reinforced anti-Peronist, tough-on-crime and even religious discourse puts the president closer to a right-wing populist like Jair Bolsonaro than to the technocrat who won the Argentine elections four years ago. But it is destined to strengthen his voter base and to avoid losing more votes than the ones he got in the PASO.

“Macri won, the ruling coalition lost,” was the title of a post-debate column by journalist Noelia Barral Grigera, who argued that Macri’s all-or-nothing strategy is at odds with the interests of key Macri allies such as Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, former ambassador to the US Martín Lousteau and key congressional allies Emilio Monzó and Silvia Lospennato, as well as Radical (UCR) party governors Alfredo Cornejo (Mendoza) and Gerardo Morales (Jujuy).

These leaders are part of a pro-dialogue sector that pushes for moderation in the upcoming political cycle which has direct communication channels with some of Fernández key allies like Sergio Massa, Eduardo “Wado” de Pedro and Máximo Kirchner, the son of Cristina Kirchner. “But the second and last presidential debate made it clear that Macri disavows them as valid interlocutors,” Barral Grigera explained.

Interestingly enough, the shift in the president’s discourse may hurt the future chances of “moderate” allies but it’s helping them now to retain some key congressional seats and thus to become a stronger opposition after December 10.

Macri’s conservative shift seeks to capture the 5,1 percent of votes that consultant José Luis Espert (who stands for economic liberalism and political conservatism) and rightist nationalist Juan José Gómez Centurión obtained in the PASO, said Juan Pablo Schinello, a political consultant at Clivaje. “It’s not the same leaving office with 30 percent of the votes than with 35 percent. If you obtain the latter, you have a pretty good election night and you carve a space in Congress with the idea of becoming a strong opposition,” he added.

On Wednesday, Gómez Centurión’s gubernatorial candidate in Buenos Aires province called on to vote for Macri.

The receptacle of demands
Meanwhile, Alberto Fernández, the clear favorite, has become the receptacle and guarantor of all demands even before taking office. Blame the landslide difference he obtained in the PASO or the feeling that Macri, increasingly accepted as a lame duck, will have no real power until the end of his mandate. The fact is that the country’s most prominent businessmen are lining up to meet him and leaders of social movements are publishing their list of urgent needs for the very first day he sits down in his office on the first floor of the Casa Rosada.

“It’s inevitable that something like this would happen,” political analyst María Esperanza Casullo told The Essential. “But it shouldn’t be a problem because the people very well know that he’s not the one ruling the country right now.”

The real problem, Casullo said, will begin to escalate after December, “especially if we take into consideration the situation in the region.”

Latin America is witnessing a season of discontent, with turmoil in the streets of Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador that adds up to the never-ending drama of Venezuela.

Fernández will have a hard time coping with Jair Bolsonaro. In August, there were some heated exchanges between the two leaders regarding the irregular jailing of former Brazilian president Lula Da Silva — and if elected president, the Peronist leader will have to cope with Bolsonaro, whom he called a “racist” not so long ago.

Venezuela will undoubtedly be a divisive issue among members of the Frente de Todos coalition. “La Cámpora supports the government of Nicolás Maduro”, said Andrés “Cuervo” Larroque, a representative of the youth group headed by Máximo Kirchner, back in January. “The Venezuelan government has dictatorship-like attitudes: it has arrested opposition leaders and killed students,” said Sergio Massa last month. The two discourses cannot be reconciled and questions surrounding this issue will linger on long after the election.

Debt trouble worsens as IMF gives Macri the cold shoulder

por Federico Poore
The Essential, 26-09-2019

The International Monetary Fund will likely postpone the disbursement of a crucial tranche of its Argentine bailout despite a last-ditch attempt this week in New York by President Mauricio Macri himself.

The president showed up in the final minutes of the meeting between IMF Acting Managing Director David Lipton and Argentine officials Hernán Lacunza (Economy Minister) and Guido Sandleris (Central Bank Governor). But nothing was said about the next tranche of the estimated USD 5.4 billion that the country should have received this month.

In an interview with Bloomberg Radio, Lipton said that the IMF will “work toward an eventual resumption of a relationship [with Argentina] which may have to wait awhile.”

“Macri came out empty handed, with no announcements to make,” economist Mariano Kestelboim, a professor at the University of Avellaneda (UNDAV), told The Essential. “But the IMF will not be lending any more money to a government that no longer has the power to carry out structural reforms.”Lacunza told reporters that the decision over the next disbursement was in the hands of the IMF, but insisted that “it was clear” the country had complied with its fiscal and monetary commitments agreed on with the IMF. The Macri administration at least managed to get a new meeting in 15 days’ time: it was confirmed that a technical mission will meet again in Washington the week of October 14.

Desperate for dollars

“Macri’s presence in that room was a signal that those billions will be sorely needed in the near future,” Martín Kalos, Chief Economist at Elypsis, told The Essential. “They are not crucial as long as the macroeconomic crisis is kept at bay, but if a new crisis breaks out they will be urgently required.” Sources from the Treasury have already acknowledged that those funds are part of its yearly forecast.

“The reprofiling (see below) helped the government kick most payments down the road and the currency controls helped contain the demand for dollars. But the government will be in desperate need for any dollar because they are a scarce commodity, at least until the end of the year,” Kalos explained.

News came as the outgoing managing director of the IMF Christine Lagarde, defended the country’s record USD 56 billion credit line, saying the agency “did the best we could at a time when Argentina leaders came to us with a very difficult situation.” Her successor, Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva, already began dealing with the complex Argentina file by meeting Lacunza on Wednesday.

Just a re-profiling bill

On Thursday last week, and after several days of delays and negotiation with opposition majorities in Congress, the Argentine government finally introduced a bill aimed at re-profiling a part of the country’s public debt, amounts to some USD 32.2 billion.

The bill sent to the Lower House calls for a debt-swap program aimed at lengthening maturities of medium- and long-term debt under local legislation. The ball is now in the opposition’s court — but opposition leaders are not precisely in a hurry to share the political costs of such a move.

A day later, Finance Minister Hernán Lacunza made a strong call for action, saying the government cannot resolve by itself growing investor concerns over the country’s ability to repay its debt and that consensus with the opposition is needed to reach an orderly re-profiling of its obligations.

“Nor this government nor the next one can face a negotiation without political consensus,” Lacunza told Bloomberg in an interview at the Olivos presidential residence.

Unconvinced opposition

But support for the draft, which the government wants to pass as soon as possible, remains unclear.

“We have no commitment whatsoever with this bill”, said national lawmaker Agustín Rossi, head of the Kirchnerite caucus in the Lower House. “If they reached out to someone, it wasn’t us.”

Presidential hopeful Roberto Lavagna said Macri called him on the phone to ask him why they weren’t helping the bill move forward in Congress. But, according to Lavagna, Macri wasn’t aware that the bill had not been filed by his team yet. Macri’s team responded saying it was clear they were talking about a draft that Lavagna’s team had already received.

The Macri administration had previously said it wouldn’t submit the bill until it had reached agreements with the opposition — but desperate times call for flexible measures and Lacunza said they now have the opposition’s support to submit the bill (but still need to agree on its contents).

Collective action clauses

The main change included in the bill is the addition of collective action clauses (CACs) to bonds under local legislation, equaling them to those issued under foreign law, where the CACs are already included.

These clauses would allow a two-thirds majority of bondholders to agree to a debt restructuring that is legally binding on all holders of the bond, including those who vote against the restructuring — meaning the government “only” needs to convince 66 percent of bondholders in order to re-negotiate the conditions of the country’s medium- and long-term debt, possibly with a haircut or a change in maturities.

According to newspaper La Nación, the Peronist opposition led by Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner is unlikely to back the bill before the October presidential elections take place. The same newspaper quoted a top government lawmaker who said that Lacunza “was forced to send the bill as a signal to markets” but that its passing was already seen as far from a sure thing.

Foreigners first?

Meanwhile, the announcement of a mandatory extension of maturities of short-term debt held by institutional investors — that is, a technical default on its debt payment — has continued to create outrage among governors and mutual fund investors.

Not only have key districts such as Santa Fe and Buenos Aires province invested heavily in Letes and Lecap bonds and found themselves caught in the deferred payment plan presented by Lacunza on August 30.

The outrage among local investors has been made worse by the fact that foreign investors are getting paid on time – at least until now.

On Monday, the government paid big maturities on its Bopomo peso-denominated bond, as well as the Bonar 2020. Both payments amounted to almost 28 billion pesos, and half of the Bopomo issues were held in the hands of the US’ Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) investment fund.

Some analysts were fearful that the pesos would end up adding pressure on the country’s exchange rate, which was the reason behind the decision not to pay the locally-held short-term Lecaps, Lelinks and Lecer bonds a month ago. So far, however, the Bopomo payments seemed to have had no visible effect was seen on the exchange rate.
Closer to defaulting

Still, provinces remain worried about their financial situation, with fears their own local debt and expenses could get into trouble.

“A defaulting federal government cannot make the provinces default as well. We’re holding talks with other governors and we will take this issue before Congress”, Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey told reporters.

With the pressure mounting from multiple creditors, Argentina position is looking increasingly precarious.

“There’s two macroeconomic scenarios for November/December. Either the IMF payment arrives or it doesn’t. I think the payment isn’t going to come. The IMF is more likely to wait for the next administration. And this is why Macri made this desperate move to participate in the meeting in the US,” Kestelboim said.

“What happened yesterday leaves the country close to a full-on default.”


Simplified, but short-sighted: Critics raise questions over new City planning code

por Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Times, 27-07-2019

Last December, the Buenos Aires City Legislature brought in a new set of regulations to govern urban development in the nation’s capital, replacing legislation that dated back to 1977.

The introduction of the new rules was barely noticed, lost in the midst of more urgent political issues. Yet the tenets contained within the City government’s new Urban Planning Code (or Código Urbanístico, in Spanish) are likely to have a major, long-lasting impact on the lives of many porteños.

The government of Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said its goal in forming the code was to alter the capital’s traditional approach of dividing the city into zones with mixed-use areas, instead favouring a development model with relatively high densities.

On its face the project appears to be a good idea, but critics say the new approach fails to address some of the main urban problems of the country’s capital.

NEED FOR CHANGE

Over the last few decades, the urban planning regulations for the City of Buenos Aires were laid down in the Código de Planeamiento Urbano, legislation which was passed during the last military dictatorship (1976- 1983), though minor changes were made to the code in 1989 and 2000.

Following the teachings of the modernist movement, cityplanners favoured zoning (dividing the city into zones — residential, industrial — in which certain land uses were permitted or prohibited) and envisioned a city dominated by motorways, generating a development heavily reliant upon private cars and transport. The most noticeable result of this era was the spread of the highrise building, the famous “towers” (or torres) that were erected throughout Buenos Aires in both commercial and residential areas.

At first this took the shape of a real-estate boom in the Catalinas Norte area near Retiro station, but then in the 1990s and 2000s that gave way to a frenzy of modern residential towers in Palermo, Caballito and other neighbourhoods. With 467 buildings over 12 stories high, today Buenos Aires is one of the cities with most high-rise buildings in all of South America, second only to São Paulo.

These developments, however, went against the latest, emerging trends in urban development, where the keywords were ‘human-scale,’ ‘sustainability’ and ‘identity.’ Even when the City administrations of Mauricio Macri (2007-2015) and Rodríguez Larreta (since 2015) began to implement some modest projects that incorporated the principles of so-called ‘New Urbanism’ thought (such as bike lanes, the creation of pedestrian-only streets downtown) it was clear that these measures were being adopted without any major changes to regulations that encouraged the use of the motor car and invited developers to tear down the existing buildings and build new, higher structures with little regard of how uneven some urban blocks in City would appear.

OVERHAUL

With the goal of overhauling this decades-old system, the Buenos Aires City government embarked on a path to introduce new rules. After two years of discussions, the local legislature eventually passed a new Urban Planning Code with votes entirely from Rodríguez Larreta’s Vamos Juntos coalition.

Some of the main aspects of the new regulations include allowing mixed uses in several districts (as opposed to those much-criticised zoning laws of the past), streamlined and updated rules for the height of buildings and a call to complete “the urban tissue” — a reference to attempts to ensure that population growth be focused in existing built-up areas, in an effort to tackle urban sprawl.

The enacting of these regulations were completed with the approval of a separate law, the Ley de Plusvalía Urbana, which would capture urban capital gains from those developers who take advantage of additional construction capacities. More concretely: a tax that will depend on the amount of additional square metres allowed by the new regulations that the

City government would use to fund infrastructure works and urban mobility policies. City government officials say these changes were essential.

“We needed a law that provided urban and environmental regulations for the 21st first century and that oriented the growth of the city to avoid the widening of the urban space,” City Planning Undersecretary Carlos Colombo told the Times.

However, not everyone shares his optimism.

“We knew some kind of reform was long overdue, but we don’t agree with its main aspects,” said Jonatan Baldiviezo, a lawyer and president of the Observatorio del Derecho a la Ciudad NGO, who has reservations about the new code.

He says the City authorities’ priorities are not the same as those of most porteños.

“For the government, the city’s main problems were ‘uneven’ street corners and bare walls separating buildings, while for us the main issues are the housing crisis, the collapse of public services and the lack of green spaces,” he told the Times.

While the population of the capital had remained steady at around three million since the 1950s, City government officials have expressed previously that they want twice that many people living within the city limits, arguing the new code was written with that goal in mind.

Baldiviezo, however, argued the new regulations does not prepare for such a new scenario — apart from allowing more square meters to be built in each lot, that is.

“The new regulation has no plan on how or where to build enough schools, hospitals or adequate municipal infrastructure and utility services for six million people,” the lawyer said.

REACHING NEW HEIGHTS

Not every change has been greeted with scepticism though. One of the main innovations of the new urban planning rules is a much simplified table, indicating allowable height and building areas. On major avenues,such as Corrientes or Del Libertador, buildings will be limited to 12 storeys high; along other wide roads, the limit is set between six and nine storeys, while in regular streets buildings won’t be able to exceed 16.5 metres (some four storeys).

These were all welcome changes in light of the complex rules laid down in the previous code, where practically everything regarding high-rise towers in residential areas was up to interpretation. In fact, over the last few years the City’s Office of Urban Interpretation (DGIUR, in its Spanish acronym) has been accused of being too “generous” in its rulings, with critics saying it repeatedly found new reasons to allow the construction of high-end residential sites in the heart of traditional neighbourhoods such as Palermo or Caballito.

“This Urban Planning Code puts things in order for small plots throughout the city,” said urban specialist Marcelo Corti, the editor-in-chief of the digital magazine Café de las Ciudades. “However, several large pieces of land remain labelled as ‘special urban areas’ (Urbanizaciones Especiales), which means there is no decision yet on what to do with them.”

Many of these vacant lands belong to the federal government and others to the City of Buenos Aires, Planning Undersecretary Colombo confirmed.

Some of these large areas set aside for later classification are, precisely, ones being auctioned off by City Hall to private companies.

A report published earlier this month by the Professional Council of Architecture and Urbanism (CPAU) revealed that between 2017 and 2019, the national government of Mauricio Macri and the local City administration of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta sold off state land in Buenos Aires City for a total of US$953.7 million. The sell-off included public lands such as the Tiro Federal shooting range in Núñez, a railyard in Colegiales and the El Dorrego fairgrounds.

THE UNDERLYING QUESTION

Attention of late has also turned to what’s missing from the new code. Some experts believe its main shortcoming is that it evades debate about the role of the State in urban planning.

“The new code limits itself to regulating private space, without setting clear parameters to guide the renewal, rehabilitation and preservation of public spaces,” architects at CPAU said in a recent document. “The rules that shape the urban form are healthy regulations that acknowledge the need to work with the city’s already-built area, but the equation between density, transport and infrastructure remains unsolved.” According to the organisation, the new code lacks a “metropolitan vision” that addresses challenges of transportation and the environment, especially in the Greater Buenos Aires area, which is home to 15 million people.

“The City of Buenos Aires should be discussing its model of development from the point of view of its public institutions like Housing and Urban Development,” Corti argued, pointing to what he believes to be an ideological bias against direct state investment in the area. “But putting public land to public use, favouring the middle and working classes, has been done in Medellín, Singapore and even the Urban Development Zones of France.”

And here lies the heart of the matter. The housing deficit in the capital continues to worsen: porteños now need five monthly salaries to afford just one square metre of property (imagine workers earning an average salary of 25,800 pesos or US$570 trying to buy a two-room apartment that can cost US$143,000). Credit for housing is virtually non-existent, and only a privileged few can buy. The trend is clear: 54 percent of all new building permits issued last year were for luxury homes.

The new code orders and simplifies rules for building in the City, and that’s no doubt a positive step forward. But it does little to address externalities outside the market. A more streamlined skyline perhaps, but with the same unequal development: something of a missed opportunity for Buenos Aires.



Market soars as Macri-Pichetto ticket broadens ruling coalition

por Federico Poore
The Essential, 13-06-2019

Mauricio Macri has chosen a veteran Peronist senator as his vice-presidential candidate. Miguel Ángel Pichetto, 68, could breathe new life into the worn-out president’s attempts to tame a growing crisis of governability amid questions over Argentina’s ability to repay a multibillion bailout to the International Monetary Fund. A low-profile deal-maker for Peronist governments of all ideologies, Pichetto was a key ally of former president Cristina Kirchner until the very end of her 2007-2015 administration.
In a week full of surprises, this was perhaps the greatest.
Macri described Pichetto as “a statesman” with a deep “commitment” to the country’s institutions. Pichetto, in turn, called on to “maintain a capitalist path,” arguing that voters this year will get to choose “between a capitalist model and a model of socialist intervention with a closed economy, currency restrictions and import controls” — his description of what Argentina would look like if the Fernández-Fernández ticket wins the race for the Casa Rosada.
Expanded coalition, market celebration
“The incorporation of Pichetto may not immediately add votes, but it significantly improves governability until and after the elections,” wrote Hernan Ladeuix of AR Partners in a note to investors. Market reactions were quick. Hours after the announcement, bonds rallied, stocks soared by 15 percent in just two days, the peso strengthened, and the Country Risk index fell below the 1,000-point psychological mark.
Including the Peronist senator for Río Negro was a bold move to counteract the much-publicized deal between Cristina Kirchner and centrist Peronist Sergio Massa that was hurting the ruling coalition’s chances in October.
The road to the deal began a month ago, when Pichetto was the first opposition figure agreeing to sign a 10-point document with the government calling for fiscal responsibility and payment of debts, while Massa’s flirting with Cristina Kirchner was growing stronger. From that point onward, the romance between Macri, Pichetto and investors only grew.
Pichetto’s nomination was also accompanied by a rebranding: the weary Cambiemos [Let’s Change] electoral trademark was replaced for “Juntos por el Cambio” [Together for Change] during yesterday’s registration deadline. The new brand, which suggests a broadening of the coalition, will be used by both Macri and Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal in this year’s elections.
“The Macri-Pichetto ticket is likely to have an overall positive effect, especially among independent Radical voters who were disappointed with Macri. He’s seen as a leader that was becoming too self-absorbed,” political consultant Analía del Franco told The Essential.
Juan Manuel Pazos, chief economist at TPCG Valores, said Macri’s choice of vice-president is designed to expand Cambiemos beyond its base, to break the momentum that Cristina Kirchner had built over the past few weeks, and “to enhance the government’s ability to build majorities in Congress during the next term.” The last could be a game-changer: Macri never enjoyed a Senate majority.
“For Peronists seeking power, the decision has morphed from ‘CFK or the highway’ to ‘CFK or Pichetto.’ This will change the dynamics of the race,” Pazos said. “We expect the government to actively try to woe other non-Kirchnerite Peronists into the coalition.”

But who is Miguel Angel Pichetto?
The Washington Post characterized Pichetto as an “opposition figure” — but this is not exactly true.
As a lawyer and head of the Río Negro province chapter of the Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist), Pichetto first backed the radical free-market reforms initiated by president Carlos Menem (1989-1999). At the turn of the century, he was elected senator and soon became a staunch defender of both caretaker president Eduardo Duhalde (2002-2003) and the left-leaning Kirchner administrations (2003-2015). Throughout his career, he showed impressive party discipline and it was not until Cristina Kirchner left the government that he voiced his negative opinion of her last years in power.
Over the last three years, he continued to build his “moderate” image, alternating criticism and praise for the Macri administration and even helping the president pass some of its most controversial measures in the Upper House, such as the 2017 pension reform and the payment of more than USD 9.3 billion to holdout creditors.
Last year, he became one of the founders of Alternativa Federal, a small political force comprised of “moderate” leaders from the Peronist opposition set up to capture voters disappointed with Macri’s government but also unwilling to support Cristina Kirchner’s return to power.
When Massa (arguably the most powerful leader of this third way) left the group to sign a deal with the Kirchnerite opposition, and with his Senate term expiring in December, Pichetto began to soften his early criticism to Macri’s economic policies. According to Pichetto, his decision to join forces with the center-right president “was a process of rapprochement after my trip to New York,” referring to two separate meetings he held on April 24 with representatives of Black Rock and VR Capital, and another one at Barclays, where he insisted that Argentina “will meet its obligations.” The gesture was of enormous help for the Macri administration, which at the time was struggling with a bond selloff and a run against its currency.

A question of identity
The solidification of Massa’s electoral deal with the left-leaning Peronist ticket of Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner meant that maintaining Cambiemos’ “purist” identity was increasingly costly. Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña was the main proponent of repeating a “pure PRO party” candidacy such as the Macri-Michetti ticket that won the 2015 presidential elections, but lost to pressure from allies of the ruling coalition.
“Macri has put an end to a style of making politics he has been proposing since 2007. He no longer looks for women that ‘soften’ his image [such as former running mates María Eugenia Vidal and Gabriela Michetti] but to a man that can bring ‘virility’ to it. He’s stepping aside from his ‘new politics’ style, getting into a more traditional model instead,” political scientist Andrés Malamud said in a column.
On Sunday, the ruling Cambiemos administration scored its first gubernatorial victory of 2019 after incumbent Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales obtained 43.7 percent of the votes and secured his re-election. Morales took the microphones and called on widening the coalition, saying the Macri government was betting too much on an all-or-nothing approach that could end up with them losing a runoff vote against Kirchnerism. And even if they won, the Jujuy leader continued, there’s the question of the “morning after.”
“No government will be able to rule the country (after 2019) if it doesn’t create a great political agreement,” Morales told La Nación.
Mendoza Governor Alfredo Cornejo, another UCR member and the big winner of last Sunday’s provincial primaries, also proposed a “big electoral front” including Radical party leaders and moderate Peronists. Many were expecting Macri to pick Ernesto Sanz, a former senator for Mendoza and key UCR figure, as his running mate. But Sanz said no and the other strong option, Radical lawmaker Martín Lousteau (who acted as Macri’s Ambassador to the United States) will almost certainly be running for a Senate seat in Buenos Aires City. So Pichetto it was. A veteran Peronist, a moderate, a serious man, a doer.

Fresh start for pollsters
“There lies the true purpose of this move. Maybe Pichetto ‘gets in the way’ of some of Massa’s potential voters and draws them towards the Macri-Pichetto ticket,” political consultant Ricardo Rouvier told The Essential.
Rouvier is preparing a new nationwide poll now that all the main presidential candidacies have been outlined. Del Franco agrees this is a completely new game.
“I’ve seen some polls that showed surprisingly high levels of support for a potential deal between Massa and Alberto Fernández. We’ll have to see what happens now with the Macri-Pichetto ticket on a table,” the consultant said.
Wednesday also came with the news that former economy minister Roberto Lavagna and Juan Manuel Urtubey, the conservative governor of Salta province that was part of the now-defunct Alternativa Federal, signed a last-minute deal to run for president and VP, respectively.
“It’s a modest coalition that will play a modest role in the elections,” Rouvier said. “But they’ll surely steal some votes from Macri.” So far in 2019, the ruling coalition has lost 427,000 votes compared to four years ago. Macri cannot afford to lose any more.

Enlace

Peronism, Courts, and Unions Move Closer to Cristina Kirchner After Public Reappearance

por Federico Poore
The Essential, 16-05-2019

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is back.

Fueled by the government’s own missteps, the former president has enjoyed a week full of positives — first presenting her best-selling book Sinceramente [“Sincerely”] at the packed Buenos Aires International Book Fair and then being at the center of a crucial summit at the Justicialist Party (PJ) headquarters, mere weeks before the June 22 deadline to register election tickets.

The meeting that took place on Tuesday has been the most important step taken by Peronism, the opposition party since 2015, on its way to reclaim power. A photograph sent to the media shows Kirchner surrounded by a wide array of Peronist leaders including union leader Hugo Moyano, governors Rosana Bertone (Tierra del Fuego), Lucía Corpacci (Catamarca), and Gildo Insfrán (Formosa), and even Daniel Scioli and Felipe Solá, two Peronists who have announced their intention to run for president.

Analysts portrayed the photo-op as a symbolic moment: the confirmation that differences between many Peronist leaders have been ironed out and that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) is definitely seeking a wider political base in anticipation of the October presidential elections, where the current senator will play a key role. It was a shocking contrast to a more apathetic picture published that same day depicting a two-man meeting between Macri’s Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio and Miguel Ángel Pichetto, a veteran Peronist senator who had vowed never to join forces with Cristina again: while Pichetto was alone with Frigerio, Cristina was surrounded by a multitude of allies.

Fernández de Kirchner was at the center of the meeting and spoke for 20 minutes, proclaiming that she was willing to join the biggest possible coalition “in whatever capacity” may be needed.

“We have decided that the Justicialist Party will be the country’s patriotic opposition front this year,” said in turn PJ president José Luis Gioja–this is one of the main proponents of her return to the “official” Peronist party.

The PJ, the official party name of the movement founded by Juan Domingo Perón, is not the same as Peronism: there were moments where candidates from different Peronist factions ran as independents, and it’s no secret that the relationship between the former president and the PJ party structure hasn’t been that good in the past.
Broadening the coalition

One of the key figures now back with Fernández de Kirchner after resolving political disputes with her is Alberto Fernández, who served as Cabinet chief during the tenure of the late Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007).

Fernández is now the campaign chief of Fernández de Kirchner, and has been working to mend fences with many of her former allies. Yesterday, he said the former president would be open to running against other PJ leaders at August’s primaries, and invited third-way proponents Sergio Massa and Roberto Lavagna to be a part of the front.

Lavagna, a former Economy minister who is generally respected in political circles for his role after the 2001 crisis, however, not widely known by the broader society, insists on running unopposed as part of a broad front that includes both Peronists and Radical (UCR) leaders such as Martín Lousteau, the country’s ambassador to the United States until 2017.

Massa, a dissident Peronist who ended up third in the 2015 presidentials and still holds around 10 percent of voting intentions, appeared to decline the offer as he expressed his opposition to what he deemed CFK’s “all or nothing” approach to politics. But leaders close to Lavagna suspect Massa may end up joining her. Clarín’s Eduardo van der Kooy believes the former Tigre mayor could get an offer to run for Buenos Aires province governor within Fernández de Kirchner’s coalition, in exchange for dropping his presidential bid.
Stars lining up

Two other major actors seemed to side with the former president this week.

Mere hours after the summit at the PJ headquarters, the Supreme Court accepted a demand by Fernández de Kirchner’s defense team to reexamine the evidence against her in an investigation into corruption in public works. Analysts and government officials immediately speculated about the possibility of this decision effectively delaying the start of the trial against her, although the Supreme Court clarified today that they would begin next week anyway.

Meanwhile, the CGT umbrella union toughened its stance against the Macri administration and called for a general strike on May 29. The goal is to express the unions’ opposition to “the decadent evolution of the economy.” Official stats revealed that real wages have lost 11 percent of their value over the last 12 months.

La Nación newspaper’s influential columnist Joaquín Morales Solá suggested that the Supreme Court’s decision could be a signal toward the former president as her chances to win in October rise. The strike, meanwhile, could be read as a hint that differences between the more combative factions of the CGT (closer to Cristina Kirchner) and the more cautious union leaders (closer to other politicians such as Massa) are joining forces.

A moderate CFK?

The former president’s appearance at the PJ summit was her second public showing in a week. On May 9, she rocked the TV ratings with a speech at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, where she showed signs of political moderation and appeared to address undecided voters.

Political allies, TV stars, journalists, and even one of the country’s top media moguls packed out an auditorium as thousands more defied the downpour outside to watch giant screens as she discussed her memoir, the country’s best-selling book in years.

“Cristina succeeds in making everyone talk about her,” said Eduardo Fidanza, head of the Polarquía consultancy firm. “Everyone is forced to express their passions (for loving or hating her) as the population is kept on the edge of their seats waiting for her decision, a master move that will affect the fate of the other contenders.”

Macri wasn’t named even once during Fernández de Kirchner’s Book Fair speech, but his 10-point pact to alleviate concerns about Argentina’s political future was. “No-one can disagree with these statements, but let me tell you something else will be needed. A social contract agreed upon by all Argentines with verifiable, quantifiable, enforceable goals,” the former president said at the enormous La Rural fair grounds owned by the traditionally conservative Argentine Rural Society.

Interestingly, she offered the example of the economic plan carried out by businessman and former Economy minister José Ber Gelbard during Perón’s third administration in 1973. The program’s goal was to bring down high inflationary pressures through negotiations between conflicting economic interests, slowing down the race between salaries and price hikes.

It was signed by businessmen, industrial leaders and union bosses (a “social pact,” as Fernández de Kirchner likes to put it) and lasted for most of the 514 days Gelbard remained in office. The plan successfully addressed inflationary expectations at first but  ignored longer-term fiscal and monetary aspects in its policymaking, leading to its ultimate failure and the implementation of the infamous “Rodrigazo” in 1975 — a ‘shock’ austerity program which led to a sharp reduction in purchasing power in a bid to balance the country’s books. Is this the shape of things to come?

The presidential race in Argentina still remains close. A new poll by the Management & Fit consultancy displayed disappointing figures for Macri’s re-election bid, forecasting that the president will lose in a runoff to either Kirchner or Lavagna. One in five of those polled said they will decide their vote mere days before the elections and a whopping 12 percent of respondents indicated they will decide whom to vote for on election day.

The high-profile espionage scandal hitting close to the Macri administration

por Federico Poore
The Essential, 21-03-2019

With seven months to go before the presidential elections, a high-profile espionage scandal is hitting close to the heart of Mauricio Macri’s administration. The revelations of the recently disclosed “D’Alessio case” are circling around key government officials and the presidential overreaction
has only cast more doubts about its role.

For long, allies and supporters of former president Cristina Kirchner have alleged that the corruption cases she faces at the courts are politically motivated. Even if the notebooks scandal known as “causa Cuadernos” — which made international headlines in August when a series of photocopied notebooks detailing alleged bribes and kickbacks were handed to reporters at La Nación newspaper — is real, could it be that those accused seeking plea bargains are trying to place the blame onto all-too-convenient enemies?

Here’s a short summary of what we know so far:

• On February 8, journalist Horacio Verbitsky revealed that a farm producer named Pedro Etchebest was accusing Marcelo D’Alessio, an alleged security expert, of blackmailing him. According to the investigation, D’Alessio told Etchebest he was acting on behalf of federal prosecutor Carlos Stornelli and demanded US$300.000 in exchange for protection in the “causa Cuadernos,” a case into widespread graft during the Kirchnerite era led by Stornelli.

• Etchebest taped each of his meetings with D’Alessio — who presented himself as a law yer even though he did not have a license — and recorded calls in which the man threat ened him while boasting about his contacts with Stornelli, Clarín veteran reporter Daniel Santoro, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich and even several of the United States three-letter agencies, a claim that the US later denied.

• The extortion case was assigned to Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla, from the Buenos Aires province district of Dolores, who ordered D’Alessio’s arrest and called on experts to examine the contents of his cell phone and computer. Stornelli refused to hand in his cell phone to be analysed and did not show up for questioning.

• Two ex-federal police officers named Ricardo Bogoliuk and Aníbal Degastaldi were also arrested in connection with D’Alessio’s blackmailing operations. Bogoliuk, a commissioner who was discharged from the force in 1999 for participating in highway robberies, served in the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) in 2017, after Macri took office. D’Alessio, who is now remanded in custody, said he had been following orders from Bo goliuk. As the scandal grew, it was revealed that other people were also blackmailed by D’Alessio and Bullrich acknowledged he met with D’Alessio at least once at the Security Ministry’s headquarters.

• Last week, after a request from opposition leaders, Ramos Padilla appeared before Congress and detailed what he said was a broad system of “illegal espionage” in Argentina comprised by intelligence service members, the Judiciary, government officials and media outlets with the aim of extorting business owners. During the course of the investigation, the judge said, he found that D’Alessio had carried out “intelligence operations” to force people to confess to crimes or implicate others. In an attempt to delegitimize the session, lawmakers from the ruling Cambiemos coalition did not show up.

• Expert reports by the Coast Guard said D’Alessio had access to privileged information in the Cuadernos case and that he knew the contents of an appeals court ruling six days before it was issued.

Macri’s reaction to the scandal was, at least, surprising. On Friday, his Justice Minister Germán Garavano announced he would open up proceedings in the Magistrates’ Council — the body in charge of appointing and disciplining judges — to remove Ramos Padilla, arguing that his appearance before Congress violated the confidentiality of individuals involved in the case. “He’s not an impartial judge. I hope that the Magistrates’ Council, taking into account the evidence (against him), discusses his removal”, Macri said in an interview.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) blasted the move. “The request to investigate a judge who is looking into allegations of surveillance and extortion that could implicate government allies undermines judicial independence,” the organization said in a statement Tuesday. “Any judge can be investigated with good cause, but the government has not provided any convincing reason to investigate Ramos Padilla,” added José Miguel Vivanco, the HRW Americas director.

That same day, the Supreme Court ordered more resources be given to Ramos Padilla to help him carry out the high-profile investigation, a move seen as a message to the Macri government.

The plot thickens

But the credibility of the accusations is also being questioned. Etchebest, the alleged victim, ackowledged to La Nación he had shared offices with Bogoliuk and Degastaldi — the very people that allegedly ordered D’Alessio to extort him — and the newspaper believes “there are too many loose ends” in his story. Meanwhile, respected journalist Hugo Alconada Mon portrayed D’Alessio as a man who has been extorting on his own account, boasting about his (fake) contacts with the AFIP tax bureau and with Colombian drug-dealers in order to sell himself as a “fixer.” Maybe Stornelli was unaware of the extortion being made on his behalf.

Be as it may, at the core of this scandal lies the fact that a judge from Buenos Aires province is unveiling an illegal espionage ring. “The important thing is that Ramos Padilla is messing with an issue he is not supposed to mess with,” said influential political commentator Carlos Pagni in a much-discussed editorial. “He is exposing the intelligence underworld that has been contaminating the Argentine courts, a scheme that involves legal and illegal intelligence networks and the federal courts. Ramos Padilla is nosing around this issue and it appears to be the reason why the government wants him removed.”

At different ends of the political spectrum, both Verbitsky and Pagni said D’Alessio even had intelligence reports on Buenos Aires province governor María Eugenia Vidal, with Pagni suggesting this could be a case of Cambiemos officials “spying on each other.”

From the point of view of Argentine institutionality, two opposing risks lie ahead. Macri’s government could succeed in removing Ramos Padilla and gain control of the investigation, undermining judicial independence. As well as that, the entire Cuadernos case could be thrown out as a result of the alleged extortion methods used to obtain confessions from businessmen.

Entrevista a Daniel Pelegrina

"El próximo gobierno va a tener que hablar más de producción y menos de finanzas"

por Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Times, 16-03-2019


¿Qué resultados concretos se llevó de la gira argentina por India y Vietnam?
Fue positiva en muchos aspectos. Para poder exportar tenemos que tener relaciones con todo el mundo y buscar la apertura de nuevos mercados, la eliminación de barreras (arancelarias)... Eso se está haciendo bien y lo estamos apoyando. También fue positivo el contacto con productores agropecuarios y empresas agroindustriales (de India y Vietnam), así que fue positivo el contacto con ellos. Al ser una entidad de representantes, no tenemos para comerciar en estas ruedas business-to-business, pero habían trabajado bien desde la Cancillería y tuvimos reuniones con contrapartes institucionales. Entonces, por ejemplo, nos juntamos con think-tanks de la India y con gente vinculada a la producción animal en Vietnam. En fin, observamos oportunidades concretas de exportación de carnes, de aves y de leche.

Entiendo que en Vietnam se interesaron por pomelos, mandarinas y naranjas argentina. ¿Se habló algo de carne?
Vietnam es un importante importador de carne argentina y hace de puerta de entrada a Asia, aunque no siempre por canales formales. Es un país de 100 millones de habitantes y puede ser la puerta de entrada a otros países de Asia.

En su presupuesto 2019, para alcanzar el déficit cero, el gobierno previó una ambiciosa meta de aumento de exportaciones del 20,9 por ciento. ¿Cree que esto es posible?
No sé exactamente cuánto de eso se explicaría por la producción ganadera. Sí puedo decirte que si el clima acompaña este año vamos a tener una cosecha más importante que la de 2018. Este año están aumentando las exportaciones de carne, de lácteos y de los productos de las economías regionales. Comparado con el año pasado, donde por la sequía nos “faltaron” 20 millones de toneladas de cosecha, seguramente vamos a tener números grandes.

En febrero mantuvo una reunión con Roberto Cardarelli, encargado del caso argentino en el Fondo Monetario Internacional, en la que planteó su oposición al aumento en las retenciones anunciado el año pasado. Si bien el FMI reiteró en ese entonces su visión de que las retenciones eran un mal impuesto, ¿este planteo quedó en algo más?
No, el objetivo de la reunión fue simplemente contarle nuestra perspectiva sobre la visión del país. Desde esa perspectiva, hablamos de las retenciones como un retroceso, como una mala aplicación de una política que atrasa. Todo lo que habían sido las dos cosechas récord después de la eliminación de las retenciones (a casi todos los productos) y el anuncio de un cronograma para la rebaja de las retenciones a la soja iba en la dirección adecuada. Y en 2018, si no hubiese sido por el clima hubiésemos tenido también una muy buena cosecha, porque en el interior del país ya se estaba comenzando a ver el círculo virtuoso de las medidas tomadas al inicio de la gestión de Macri. Pero lamentablemente por cuestiones macroeconómicas y medidas de emergencia le tuvieron que echar mano a esto.

¿Qué más se habló en la reunión con Cardarelli?
Dos temas importantes. Uno, cómo la presión impositiva limita el negocio agropecuario. Otro el efecto que las medidas económicas están teniendo sobre la tasa de interés. Le cito un caso: China ha demandado carne argentina de manera potente y ha generado un buen precio para la vaca, pero dado el contexto generado por las tasas de interés el productor vacuno ha preferido vender sus vacas para sanear deudas, y eso de alguna manera va a afectar a la producción futura. También hablamos del futuro, y nuestra recomendación… o mejor dicho, nuestra visión, fue que el próximo gobierno va a tener que hablar más de producción y menos de finanzas. Realmente tenemos que tener alicientes del lado de la producción tales que ofrezcan una alternativa para invertir y no para la renta financiera.

Cuando se restablecieron las retenciones se habló de un monto de 4 pesos por dólar para las exportaciones primarias y 3 pesos para las de mayor valor agregado. Lo que se argumentó en su momento es que con una mayor devaluación este impuesto se iba a licuar. En otras palabras, un impuesto de cuatro pesos con un dólar a 40 es el 10 por ciento, pero si el dólar se va a 50, el impuesto va a pasar a representar apenas un 8 por ciento.
Lo que pasa es que ese nuevo impuesto es un golpe al efecto motorizador que uno esperaba que la devaluación le diera a las regiones más alejadas de los puertos o de menor competitividad. No sabemos qué va a pasar cuando llegue la dilución de la retención. Pero también hay un golpe a la confianza de la propuesta económica del gobierno. Una decisión así afecta las expectativas de un forestador que tiene que plantar un monte, que va a tener resultados dentro de 15 años, o de un criador que tiene una hembra que le va a dar una ternera recién de acá a 4 o 5 años…

Todos los sectores han hecho esfuerzos. Los trabajadores, los empleados estatales y los jubilados perdieron poder adquisitivo, se recortó la obra pública... Está la idea de que el campo también tiene que poner su parte, por más que sea un impuesto que no caiga simpático.
Por eso lo entendimos, y ante la emergencia ya dijimos que ponemos nuevamente el hombro. De todas formas, lo pasado ya está, tratamos de mirar hacia delante. Lo que sí tratamos de explicar es que por este camino es más dificultoso tener competitividad. Si seguimos con retenciones en este contexto donde están dadas todas las posibilidades concretas de crecimiento del negocio, vamos a encontrarnos con que tenemos los mercados pero no la producción para esos mercados. No queremos subsidios sino una rebaja en los impuestos.

Este año es un año electoral y es posible que el gobierno planche un poco el dólar. En febrero dijo que el dólar estaba “un poco atrasado” para las economías regionales. Ahora subió a 43 pesos, ¿cree que sigue atrasado?
No, creo que cuando dije eso me sacaron un poquito de contexto. El valor del dólar es fruto del cruce de la oferta y la demanda, por lo que el valor “adecuado” depende. No es la misma la renta de un productor que está a 50 kilómetros de Rosario, que tienen los mejores suelos de Argentina y una productividad espectacular, que la de un productor de Salta, que el flete le representa el 40 por ciento de los costos. Lo que sí dije que es que para las economías regionales -productores de la zona extrapampeana, frutas, algodón, vinos- las últimas medidas fueron un golpe muy duro, y ahí digo es donde el tipo de cambió se quedó atrasado, porque estas economías venían trabajando, finalmente se produce esa situación de mejora de competitividad pero enseguida cae la retención y pierden 12 por ciento o 4 pesos por dólar de tu ganancia, ahí efectivamente estás en una situación (de dólar atrasado).

¿Cuáles son las economías regionales que la están pasando peor?
Primero te menciono algunas economías no necesariamente “regionales” que la están pasando mal. Una es la lechería. Justo en un momento donde pueden empezar a buscar algún tipo de acceso a mercados internacionales, en medio de una competencia feroz, sacarle el 12 por ciento o esos 4 pesos por dólar (de retenciones) liquida cualquier chance de exportar. Lo mismo sucede con la carne, aunque en el caso de la carne hay quizás mejores expectativas de colocación. La producción de vinos y la producción de frutas está en serias complicaciones, como casi todas las economías de la regiones.

EL PRECIO DE LA CARNE
El 53 por ciento de la carne argentina se exporta a China...

Así es.

… pero son cortes que en general no se consumen aquí. Distinto es el caso de Europa, a donde enviamos algunos de nuestros mejores cortes. ¿No existe una competencia entre el consumo interno y la carne que exportamos a la Unión Europea?
China se lleva carne de baja calidad, pasa que se lleva la vaca casi completa. En el caso de la Unión Europea, se trata de un mercado de alta exigencia que complementa con el consumo interno, porque se envía una parte únicamente: los lomos, las colitas, el ojo de bife, que en general no es el mismo consumo que se da en todo el territorio argentino. La gente en Argentina come más vacío, asado, costeleta.

La carne aumentó un 7,8 por ciento en los primeros dos meses del año. ¿Le adjudica esto a la devaluación?
La ganadería la pensamos en ciclos. Si hacés una comparación con el precio actual con el de hace tres años, vas a ver que el precio de la carne ni siquiera alcanzó a la inflación en el mismo período. La carne está recuperando inflación atrasada.

EL AÑO ELECTORAL
De cara a las elecciones, su organización le está acercando un documento a diferentes candidatos a presidente en el que piden un mayor acceso a mercados internacionales, soluciones a problemas de competitividad y la eliminación de retenciones. ¿Qué candidato cree que representa mejor el pensamiento de la Sociedad Rural?
No hay muchos candidatos en carrera. Uno lo ve a Macri, por un lado, a quien antes de la elección anterior lo fuimos a ver y nos presentó su plan de los 13 puntos (N.d.R.: en abril de 2014, Macri le presentó a las entidades agropecuarias un programas de 13 puntos que proponía, entre otras cosas, la eliminación de retenciones y de los Registros de Operaciones de Exportación), y lo cierto es que cumplió con esas promesas. Después hubo una marcha atrás, pero las medidas las realizó. O sea que las coincidencias con su plan de gobierno siguen estando. Después tenemos a Cristina (Kirchner) o a alguien del cristinismo, y ahí está claro lo que hicieron cuando fueron gobierno, que fue ir contra el campo. No entienden al campo como el motor económico de la Argentina, y cada vez que pudieron le hicieron daño al sector, entonces para qué gastar pólvora en chimangos. Después está este otro gran espacio, que todavía no tiene candidato definido (el peronismo federal) y recién ahí podríamos decir si apoyamos o no su programa de gobierno.

A siete meses de las elecciones, ni Sergio Massa, ni Juan Manuel Urtubey ni Miguel Ángel Pichetto tienen un plan para el campo.
Massa fue parte de un gobierno que se metió con el campo, y cuando fue candidato lanzó propuestas que no cerraban demasiado. En el caso de Urtubey, no vemos que haya avanzado en su provincia con medidas prácticas respecto a los productores en su región.

Uno de los pedidos más insistentes de la Sociedad Rural es la baja de impuestos. ¿No estaría más cerca de Javier Milei, José Luis Espert o Roberto Cachanosky?
No he seguido sus propuestas, aunque me las imagino porque son personas que representan un liberalismo absoluto. Nuestras ideas también son absol… son liberales, lo que pasa es que entendemos que a veces hay fuerzas que tienen que ser contrarrestadas. No sé qué piensan ellos sobre la instalación de mecanismos de defensa de la competencia o la intervención del poder de policía a través del Estado. Pero sí coincidimos (con ellos) en la perspectiva de que los mercados tienen que trabajar y poder operar en su máxima expresión. Lo que pasa es que estas cosas son muchas veces son fáciles de decir pero difíciles de llevar a la práctica.

¿Qué balance hace de la presidencia de Macri? ¿Estuvo a la altura de sus expectativas?
Sí, el proyecto político y el trabajo que se hizo con respecto a la apertura de nuevos mercados fue bueno. Creemos que hay cosas que se han demorado más de la cuenta y que debían haber sido hechas más rápido, como por ejemplo la reorganización de organismos de control. Evidentemente ha habido errores de cálculo con respecto a la capacidad de solucionar problemas estructurales de la Argentina, y no haber previsto alternativas de amortiguamiento. Pero una macroeconomía estable que permita llevar adelante una política agropecuaria acorde nace de una economía sana y un Estado que esté a altura de lo que los privados podemos sostener, y en ese sentido tampoco vemos demasiados esfuerzos. Hoy tenemos un Estado que creció enormemente durante el kirchnerismo y no sé si se achicó algo en estos tres años y medio. No se nota.

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Salarios docentes en la Argentina: ¿son los más bajos de América Latina?

por Federico Poore
Chequeado, 11-03-2019

Tras un paro de 72 horas realizado por la Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina (CTERA), comenzaron las clases en las escuelas públicas de la mayoría de las provincias del país, aunque en 18 de ellas los gremios aún no cerraron sus acuerdos paritarios de 2019 y se esperan reuniones con las administraciones provinciales en los próximos días.

El conflicto se da en el marco de un cambio que no existía antes de 2016: con un decreto dictado ese año, el presidente de la Nación, Mauricio Macri, modificó la paritaria nacional docente y excluyó de esta mesa la negociación salarial, donde antes se establecía un salario testigo que funcionaba como “piso” para todas las jurisdicciones del país. En la actualidad, este mínimo se ajusta automáticamente de acuerdo con el salario mínimo y está en $15 mil en bruto.

Pero, ¿cómo se ubica el salario docente nacional con respecto al de otros países?

Según un informe del Centro de Estudios de la Educación Argentina (CEA) de la Universidad de Belgrano -que toma datos de la Organización para la Cooperación y Desarrollo Eeconómico (OCDE)-, los salarios de los docentes argentinos de primaria con diez años de antigüedad se encuentran por debajo de los cuatro países latinoamericanos considerados por el organismo internacional:

- Mientras que la Argentina ostentaba en 2017 (último año disponible con datos al publicarse el informe del CEA), en promedio, salarios anuales de US$19.629, éstos resultaron inferiores a los observados en Colombia (US$32.686), Costa Rica (US$ 29.872), Chile (US$ 24.641) y México (US$22.434).

- De acuerdo con estas mismas cifras, el salario anual docente representaba en la Argentina el 95% del Producto Bruto Interno (PBI) per cápita, una proporción inferior a la observada en Costa Rica (181%), México (125%) y Chile (107%).

El sociólogo Leandro Bottinelli, magister en Generación y Análisis de Información Estadística de la Universidad de Tres de Febrero (Untref), explicó a Chequeado que estos datos “no aportan demasiado” si no se consideran las cifras de dos o tres años consecutivos, de manera tal de tener una idea “más estructural y permanente del salario en cada país más allá de crisis o coyunturas (como una devaluación, por ejemplo)”. Bottinelli agregó que resulta difícil hacer una comparación real entre países de América Latina ya que los datos disponibles a nivel regional no están actualizados o no incluyen a la Argentina.

Para el especialista, un vector de utilidad para comparar los salarios docentes es el sectorial, es decir, comparar el salario de quienes trabajan en la enseñanza con el de los trabajadores calificados de otros sectores de la economía. De acuerdo con este informe del Observatorio Educativo de la Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (UNIPE), coordinado por Bottinelli, los trabajadores de la enseñanza con nivel superior o universitario completo en la Argentina tienen ingresos mensuales promedio 27% inferiores al del resto de los profesionales.

Estos informes, que ya indicarían la existencia de sueldos bajos entre los docentes argentinos, no consideran la importante caída en los ingresos docentes tras la fuerte devaluación del año último. De acuerdo con las últimas estadísticas de la UNIPE, entre septiembre de 2017 y septiembre de 2018, el poder adquisitivo del salario docente en relación a la canasta básica cayó un 22,4 por ciento.

Un problema generalizado

Los bajos salarios docentes son un problema sistemático en la región. “Las evidencias disponibles muestran que América Latina y el Caribe no atraen a las personas de elevado calibre que necesitan para conformar sistemas educativos de primer nivel. Prácticamente todos los países de la región parecen estar atrapados en un equilibrio de bajo nivel, con parámetros poco exigentes para el ingreso en la docencia, candidatos de baja calidad, salarios relativamente bajos e indiferenciados, escaso profesionalismo en las aulas y magros resultados educativos”, explicó el Grupo del Banco Mundial en su reporte “Profesores excelentes”.

“Lograr un nuevo equilibrio será una tarea difícil. En la actualidad, ningún sistema escolar latinoamericano, con la posible excepción del de Cuba, está cerca de mostrar los parámetros elevados, el fuerte talento académico, las remuneraciones altas o al menos adecuadas y la elevada autonomía profesional que caracterizan a los sistemas educativos más eficaces del mundo”, concluyeron los autores del informe Barbara Bruns y Javier Luque.

En el mismo sentido, para la oficina de la Unesco en Santiago de Chile aún existen importantes brechas entre los salarios de los docentes y los de otros profesionales, “lo que atenta con la posibilidad de atraer y de mantener en el aula a buenos profesores que encuentran opciones laborales mejor remuneradas”.

La inversión educativa argentina se ubica por encima del promedio regional y el 90% se destina a salarios

por Federico Poore
Chequeado, 27-02-2019

El gasto público en Educación como porcentaje del PBI está entre los más altos de Latinoamérica. Sin embargo, la mayor parte de este presupuesto se destina a salarios y desde 2016 la inversión se redujo. Cómo es la situación en la provincia de Buenos Aires.


Durante una entrevista en el programa Odisea Argentina, el especialista en políticas educativas Alieto Guadagni aseguró que la Argentina es uno de los países de la región que más invierte en educación. “Somos en América Latina uno de los países que gasta más en Educación como porcentaje del PBI. Sacando Cuba debemos ser nosotros probablemente los segundos”, sostuvo Guadagni durante el reportaje que le hizo Carlos Pagni.

Pero, ¿cuánto realmente destina el país a la Educación?

Las estadísticas sobre gasto público en Educación como porcentaje del Producto Bruto Interno (PBI) que publica el Banco Mundial con datos del Instituto de Estadística de la UNESCO recopilan la situación de todos los países de América Latina. Allí se observa que Cuba es, efectivamente, el país latinoamericano que más invierte en Educación (12,84% del PBI en 2010, según las últimas cifras disponibles) y que la Argentina se encuentra entre las naciones de la región que más recursos propios dedica al área educativa, aunque no en segundo sino en séptimo lugar. Si se toman las cifras de años comparables (solo países latinoamericanos con cifras para 2015, 2016 y 2017), el país está cuarto.

En 2016, la Argentina destinó el 5,57% de su PBI a la Educación, una cifra superior al 5,1% que destinaron en promedio a este sector los países de América Latina y el Caribe y al promedio mundial de 4,4% (ver Informe de Seguimiento de la Educación en el Mundo 2019 de la UNESCO), colocándose en el puesto número cuatro entre los 12 países de la región analizados. Incluso considerando los recortes en Educación previstos para este año (ver nota), es muy probable que la inversión educativa en la Argentina esté por encima del promedio regional.

“Es relativamente cierto que la Argentina es uno de los países de Latinoamérica que más gasta en Educación”, explicó el economista Agustín Claus, investigador y docente de Economía de la Educación de Flacso, a Chequeado. “Sin embargo, para poder comparar la inversión educativa medida como porcentaje del PBI de cada país habría que considerar la escala: tanto Brasil como Bolivia gastan más que nosotros, pero su esfuerzo es totalmente distinto si se tiene en cuenta su población en edad educativa”.

Para el especialista, la particularidad de la Argentina “es que la mayor parte (arriba del 90%) de los presupuestos educativos son salarios, con lo cual más que inversión educativa, estamos hablando de inversión en salarios docentes”.

De acuerdo con un informe de la Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económicos (OCDE), en 2017 la Argentina destinó el 93% de su presupuesto educativo al pago de salarios, mientras que México asignó el 92% de sus recursos a sueldos, y Brasil el 73 por ciento. En promedio los países que integran esta organización, entre los que se encuentran Alemania, Estados Unidos y Japón, entre otros, dedicaron un 79% de los fondos educativos para salarios.

El aumento en la inversión educativa de los últimos quince años obedece, en parte, a los dictados de la Ley de Financiamiento Educativo, que se propuso destinar en 2010 el 6% del PBI a la Educación, Ciencia y Tecnología. En 2014, un cambio en la base del PBI calculado por el Gobierno nacional indicó que no se había llegado al 6% de inversión en relación con el PBI, como sí ocurría con la base anterior.

“A pesar de esto, es incorrecto afirmar que la ley no se cumplió sobre la base de una serie de PBI que no existía al momento de su implementación. Además, con la nueva serie de PBI el indicador de referencia partió de un nivel menor, alcanzó 3,8% en 2005 y ascendió al 5% en 2010, logrando un aumento del 31% que fue exactamente igual al que se proponía la Ley de Financiamiento Educativo al ser sancionada (que definía un aumento del 4,6% al 6%)”, explicaron en un documento Pablo Bezem, Florencia Mezzadra y Axel Rivas, entonces investigadores del Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (Cippec).

Con respecto a lo ocurrido en los últimos años, Claus aseguró que el país incrementó de manera sostenida la inversión en Educación, Ciencia y Técnica hasta 2015 (ver informe del Cippec sobre el cumplimiento de la Ley de Financiamiento Educativo).

“Desde 2016 hasta la actualidad, la inversión tendió a reducirse con distintos impactos. Hay programas que tendieron a desaparecer y otros que, si bien se achicaron, aún persisten como instrumentos de políticas educativas”, sostuvo. Según el experto, el desafío en el largo plazo consistirá en discutir el financiamiento educativo, no en términos de porcentaje del PBI sino del proyecto político educativo, y discutir los criterios de la distribución de los fondos nacionales a las provincias en función de las necesidades, capacidades y esfuerzos realizados por cada distrito.



La situación en Provincia de Buenos Aires
En Provincia de Buenos Aires, y de acuerdo con datos de la Dirección Provincial de Estadística, la inversión en Educación representó en 2017 un 4% del Producto Bruto Geográfico (PBG). Para llegar a esta cuenta, los especialistas en estadísticas educativas como Agustín Claus recomiendan dividir los gastos asignados a la Dirección General de Cultura y Educación por el PBG, equivalente a lo que a nivel país se conoce como Producto Bruto Interno (PBI).
Actualizando estas cifras, y tras analizar el Presupuesto 2019 aprobado en noviembre último, el Instituto para el Desarrollo Económico y Social de Buenos Aires perteneciente a la CTA concluyó que una de las áreas más afectadas por el ajuste en los gastos fue la Dirección General de Cultura y Educación. En 2019, este área perdería 2,1 puntos porcentuales en el gasto provincial al pasar del 26% del gasto en 2018 al 23,9% en 2019. “En relación al 2015, la pérdida acumulada a 2019 sería de 5,7 puntos porcentuales”, concluye el informe.


Radiografía de la desigualdad educativa en provincia de Buenos Aires

por Federico Poore
Chequeado, 19-02-2019

Los alumnos de hogares de nivel socioeconómico bajo que asisten a escuelas públicas obtienen resultados de cuatro a diez veces peores que sus pares de NSE alto que asisten a escuelas de gestión privada. Cuáles son las localidades con mejores resultados.

El Gobierno de la Provincia de Buenos Aires se reunió la semana última con el Frente de Unidad Docente de la Provincia (Suteba, FEB, Sadop, UDA, AMET y Udocba) para discutir los aumentos paritarios de 2019. En el contexto de esta discusión, la administración de María Eugenia Vidal suele incluir en el debate la situación de la calidad educativa en las escuelas públicas bonaerenses y la migración de su matrícula hacia las escuelas privadas.

Pero, ¿cuál es la situación en las distintas partes de la provincia y en los diferentes sectores socioeconómicos? A continuación, los datos:

De acuerdo con los resultados de las pruebas Aprender del Ministerio de Educación de la Nación, que continúan con los Operativos Nacionales de Evaluación de la calidad educativa (ONE) inaugurados en 1993, existen importantes diferencias en el desempeño académico según el nivel socioeconómico (NSE) de los estudiantes y entre escuelas de gestión pública y escuelas de gestión privada. Un repaso por los informes de la prueba Aprender 2017 en la Provincia de Buenos Aires arroja las siguientes cifras:


Es decir que los alumnos pertenecientes a hogares de nivel socioeconómico bajo que asisten a escuelas públicas obtienen resultados de cuatro a diez veces peores que sus pares de NSE alto que asisten a escuelas de gestión privada. La diferencia promedio entre las áreas analizadas es de 7,3 veces.

“Los resultados muestran un largo camino por recorrer en materia de desigualdades. Nuestro sistema educativo no está pudiendo revertir las desigualdades de origen y eso marca la necesidad de colocar el foco de todas las políticas educativas en los más vulnerables”, explicó Alejandra Cardini, directora de Educación del Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (Cippec), al analizar los resultados nacionales.

El área que dirige publicó un informe en el que analiza los resultados de la primera edición de las pruebas Aprender, realizadas en 2016, en el cual Cippec asegura que “se observan resultados educativos más bajos que en otros países de la región” si se considera el PBI por habitante y la inversión educativa que realiza la Argentina. “Las evidencias muestran un diagnóstico donde el nivel educativo no empeora (incluso mejora), pero también que la educación está mal distribuida y, en términos generales, es de baja calidad”, concluyó Cardini en el informe que publicó con Belén Sánchez y Axel Rivas.

En su lectura de la siguiente edición de las pruebas Aprender (de 2017), los expertos de Cippec destacaron que “buena parte” de la diferencia de resultados entre el sector estatal y privado puede deberse a diferencias en el nivel socioeconómico de la población que asiste a cada tipo de escuela. “En efecto, el informe de resultados muestra que el nivel de segregación en el sistema educativo es significativo: sólo el 36% de los alumnos de nivel socioeconómico alto asiste a escuelas estatales mientras que dentro del nivel socioeconómico bajo, el 96% lo hace”, concluyó el informe.

“La Argentina no escapa a la realidad de la región. Hay un fuerte determinismo por contexto de vulnerabilidad o pobreza”, resumió Elena Duro, secretaria de Evaluación Educativa de la Nación, al presentar los resultados de las pruebas.

La provincia, en detalle
Uno de los capítulos del informe de análisis de los resultados de las pruebas Aprender cataloga los desempeños según el nivel socioeconómico de los alumnos, sin hacer distinción entre asistencia a establecimientos públicos o privados. Según estos mismos datos, en la Provincia de Buenos Aires el 25,9% de los alumnos de NSE bajo de sexto grado de primaria obtuvo resultados en Ciencias Sociales por debajo del nivel básico, contra apenas 4,5% de estudiantes de NSE alto. Un fenómeno parecido se observa en Ciencias Naturales, donde el 24% de los alumnos pertenecientes a hogares de NSE bajo obtuvo resultados por debajo del nivel básico contra 5,1% de estudiantes de NSE alto.

El fenómeno se da también en las escuelas secundarias de la provincia. El 30,4% de los alumnos de sexto año mostraron desempeños por debajo del nivel básico en Lengua, algo que sólo se observó en el 7% de los estudiantes de NSE alto. En el caso de Matemáticas, el 61,3% de los alumnos de hogares de NSE bajo no alcanzó niveles básicos de desempeño contra un 20,8% de los estudiantes de NSE alto (ver informe).

Cabe destacar, además, que los mejores resultados bonaerenses se dieron en localidades pequeñas: como explica esta nota, los estudiantes primarios y secundarios que residen en poblaciones de menos de 100 mil habitantes obtuvieron los mejores resultados en las pruebas Aprender 2017.

Para el Gobierno de la provincia, entre las razones de los buenos resultados alcanzados por los alumnos en pequeñas comunidades se destaca el mejor “control social” que se da entre familias, autoridades escolares y docentes. Además, las mismas fuentes reconocen que la infraestructura escolar en aquellos distritos está en mejores condiciones y que la cantidad de alumnos por aula permite un vínculo más cercano entre alumno y maestro.

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Casos extremos de desigualdad educativa
Para ilustrar la enorme desigualdad de resultados educativos entre distritos bonaerenses, el Centro de Estudios de la Educación Argentina (CEA) de la Universidad de Belgrano, que dirige Alieto Guadagni, tomó a modo de ejemplo los informes de la primera prueba Aprender, de 2016, que se hizo a alumnos de escuelas secundarias.

De acuerdo con estos datos, el 61,9% de los alumnos de escuelas estatales de José C. Paz se ubicó en el nivel “por debajo del básico” en los exámenes de Matemática, porcentaje que se redujo al 10,6% en las escuelas privadas de Vicente López. “Esta situación no es nueva en el Conurbano, ya que desde hace años existe una correlación entre el nivel educativo y el socioeconómico”, asegura el informe del CEA.

Las desigualdades también se advierten en la tasa de sobreedad en el nivel primario, es decir, el porcentaje de alumnos cuya edad sobrepasa la edad teórica correspondiente al nivel que están cursando. Según un informe publicado en 2017 por la Dirección General de Cultura y Educación bonaerense, la tasa de sobreedad en las escuelas públicas de José C. Paz era del 11,99%, comparado con el 1,61% y 1,78% de las escuelas de gestión privada en San Isidro y Vicente López, respectivamente.