100 days by Javier Milei

Image: Strange Happenings
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By BRUNO FABRICIO ALCEBINO DA SILVA*

Neoliberalism does not joke about putting social well-being at risk

In his inauguration speech given last December 10, ultra-liberal leader Javier Milei proclaimed a new chapter for Argentina, declaring: “Today marks the beginning of a new era in our nation. We have ended the long, dark period of decline and opened a path of reconstruction for our country.” However, this optimistic view was soon challenged by data, which revealed a grim reality: in January, 57,4% of the population was living below the poverty line, compared to 49,5% in December. This is the highest rate in two decades, affecting approximately 27 million people. Furthermore, extreme poverty also increased, rising from 14,2% in December to 15% in January. In fact, neoliberalism does not joke about putting social well-being at risk.

Evoking the past

The caricatural leader, whose image and personality tries to shock and merge the traditional with the mainstream pop, seeks to rescue Argentine greatness and overcome the supposed century of delay, as revealed in his inauguration speech, making eloquent references to the period of former president Domingo Sarmiento, author of the classic Facundo: civilization and barbarism [1845] and a driver of education as a way of creating cultural unity in a then fragmented country. The current president aims to recover a supposedly great past, returning to the precepts of the “liberal constitution of 1853, aiming to guarantee the objectives of freedom”, seeking to elevate the country once again to the classification of “first world power”, a fact that never happened.

Thus, the government with its stance anti-establishment, represents a significant break with the traditional policies and ideologies of Peronism and progressive movements. With rhetoric full of distorted historical references and a simplistic narrative, Javier Milei tries to evoke a glorious past that never existed. The liberal constitution of 1853, which sealed national unity, is presented as a panacea for all the ills of modern Argentina, while the president conveniently omits the deep social and economic divisions that persisted during this period. However, this utopian vision ignores the needs and realities of ordinary people, relegating millions to oblivion in the name of a discredited ideology.

Furthermore, by blaming previous governments exclusively for the current economic situation, Javier Milei disregards the complex factors that contributed to the crisis, including disastrous neoliberal policies and the lack of investment in infrastructure and human development.

Instead of offering concrete solutions to the challenges facing the country, Javier Milei indulges in empty and simplistic rhetoric, appealing to a fictitious past to justify his policies. While he promises a new era of freedom and prosperity, the truth is that his vision of a minimal state will only serve to worsen inequalities and marginalize the most vulnerable.

100 day milestone

After 100 days in office, it is possible to carry out a preliminary management analysis using the data revealed by the Atlas Intel, released on March 19, offering a comprehensive look at public perception of the government and its policies.

The survey indicates a clear division in public opinion, with an almost equivalence between approval and disapproval of the government. While 47,7% of those interviewed say they approve of the management, 47,6% disapprove of it. This division is reflected in different segments of the population, highlighting a preference for Javier Milei's management among men, people with primary education, those over 60 years of age and those with an income of more than 500 thousand pesos per month. On the other hand, disapproval is stronger among women, people with higher education, age group between 35 and 44 years old, income between 100.000 and 200.000 pesos and residents of Patagonia.

Source: Own preparation based on data from Atlas Intel.

A notable aspect is Javier Milei's position as the best rated national leader in terms of image, with a 47% positive image and 51% a negative image. This contrasts with other political leaders, such as former president Alberto Fernández, who faces a negative image of 84% (see graph 1). Javier Milei's leadership in this metric suggests a strong emotional connection with part of the population, despite political divisions. Anti-Peronist sentiment grew exponentially, as revealed in the last election with the withdrawal of Alberto Fernández's re-election and the rejection of Sergio Massa.

Source: Own preparation based on Atlas Intel data.

However, some of the government's fundamental proposals, such as the decree of necessity and urgency (DNU) 70/23, the “decreed” and dollarization, do not obtain majority support. Dollarization in particular faces significant rejection, with 52% of respondents against. This highlights Milei's need to skillfully navigate between her proposals and public opinion, seeking a balance between her political vision and the country's needs.

Source: Own preparation based on Atlas Intel data.

Analysis of cabinet members also reveals insights important, with the Minister of Security, Patrícia Bullrich, emerging as the only one with a more positive than negative image, which may express popular concern about public security.

When analyzing specific policies, such as deregulation through Decrees of Necessity and Urgency (DNU) and the proposal for dollarization of the economy, it is clear that both face more rejection than approval. This scenario reflects the significant challenges that Javier Milei's government will face as it tries to implement its key proposals. This population's resistance to neoliberal measures is a clear indication of the obstacles faced by the advent of extreme liberalism, especially in the midst of the economic and social crisis that is plaguing the country. The rejection of the proposed policies suggests a disconnect between their ideological views and the needs and concerns of the Argentine population, pointing to a heated debate about the economic and political directions to be followed by the country.

However, Javier Milei's administration is well evaluated in terms of transparency, economy and foreign relations. This suggests a clear conflict between official data, with an increase in poverty and economic difficulties for families, and the population's real perception.

Economically, the survey indicates widespread concerns about inflation and the future of the economy, with the overwhelming majority of respondents expressing pessimism about prices and the job market. According to the numbers revealed, the general assessment of the Argentine economy is alarming: 88% of those interviewed consider it bad, while only 10% classify it as normal and a mere 2% see it as good (see graph 4). This analysis highlights the urgency of effective measures to stabilize the economy and restore Argentines' confidence in future prospects.

High inflation has been a persistent concern, eroding citizens' purchasing power and generating uncertainty regarding the country's economic future. Furthermore, the job market faces significant challenges, with high rates of unemployment and underemployment affecting millions of Argentines. The grim economic outlook is reflected not only in statistics, but also in the everyday experiences of citizens, who struggle to cope with rising living costs and financial instability.

Faced with these challenges, it is crucial that the government implements effective measures to face the economic crisis. This may include policies to control inflation, stimulate economic growth and create jobs. Furthermore, it is essential to promote structural reforms that improve the country's competitiveness and encourage investment. Restoring Argentines' confidence in the economic outlook will require not only immediate action, but also a long-term commitment to sustainable and responsible policies.

Source: Own preparation based on Atlas Intel data.

In short, the survey results reveal significant discontent with the economic situation, public security and corruption. However, even in the face of these concerns, Javier Milei still has the support of approximately half the country. But when compared to the electoral percentage of the second round, which was 55%, there is a significant drop in support for the ultraliberal government.

Milei's foreign policy

Since his rise to the position of president of Argentina, Javier Milei has attracted attention not only for his domestic policies, but also for his bold approaches to foreign policy. With an ultra-liberal vision, called “libertarian” by the media, the president has sought to redefine the country's international relations, which has already resulted in some conflicts with important trading partners such as Brazil and China.

Javier Milei, who identifies as an “anarcho-capitalist,” has expressed his intention to strengthen ties with what he calls the “free world.” However, this ideological change in Argentine foreign policy has generated conflicts with established relationships of dependence, especially with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and China. The rapid choice of adversaries, including the distancing of forums such as BRICS and Mercosur, suggests a radical approach that could be costly for the country.

Despite Javier Milei's campaign rhetoric, his initial choice of economic advisors, some of whom worked with former president Mauricio Macri, points to a search for macroeconomic pragmatism. This can be seen in the appointment of Santiago Bausili as head of the Central Bank, suggesting a more moderate approach to managing the economy, especially in relation to the dollar and monetary policies.

Regarding the renegotiation of external debt with the IMF, Argentina seeks to resolve financial issues with the Fund, but the internal measures proposed by Javier Milei could affect the negotiations. The focus on economic pragmatism can be a strategy for dealing with economic pressures and negotiations with international creditors.

Argentina's refusal to join BRICS and its rapprochement with the United States and Israel, while distancing itself from Brazil and China, marked a significant change in diplomacy. This decision could be detrimental to Argentina's presence in international forums and to commercial relations with key partners.

In relation to China, historically an important trading partner of Argentina, changes in foreign policy could threaten investments and bilateral trade relations. Javier Milei's decision to align more closely with the United States and Israel could result in losses in the Chinese market and negatively affect the Argentine economy.

Javier Milei's foreign policy in Argentina reflects a radical and ideologically motivated approach that seeks to challenge established relationships and strengthen ties with countries aligned with his libertarian views. However, this approach can be risky as it puts vital trade relationships and participation in important international forums at risk. As Milei continues to navigate Argentine foreign policy, it will be crucial to balance his ideological convictions with the country's practical needs and economic interests.

Disruption

In the immediate future, emerging trends in Argentine foreign policy point to a scenario of greater polarization and uncertainty, as Javier Milei's government seeks to redefine the country's international relations based on its ideological convictions. This ideological shift could trigger an increase in diplomatic volatility and trade disputes as Argentina moves away from traditional partners in favor of alliances more aligned with the United States and Israel.

This geopolitical reorientation could generate additional tensions with neighboring countries, especially Brazil, within the scope of the UN and Mercosur. The promised rapprochement with Paraguay and Uruguay will introduce a new dynamic to Brazilian positions in the Southern Cone, which could result in public confrontations, especially on security issues and the fight against organized crime. Furthermore, Argentina will certainly seek to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), however, uncertainty remains as to whether the country's membership will be accepted by the organization's members.

However, despite these potential sources of conflict, it is crucial that Argentina seeks a balance between its ideological aspirations and the need to maintain pragmatic and constructive relations with its regional and global partners. Cooperation and constructive dialogue will continue to be fundamental to the country's economic development, political stability and security.

*Bruno Fabricio Alcebino da Silva He is majoring in International Relations and Economic Sciences at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC).


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