Argentina’s Milei signs decree to boost exports, deregulation

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -Argentine libertarian President Javier Milei on Wednesday signed a decree outlining economic reforms including an end to limits on exports plus measures to loosen regulations, as his new government combats a severe economic crisis.

“This is only the first step,” Milei said in a televised address.

“The objective is to return freedom and autonomy to individuals and start dismantling the enormous amount of regulations that have impeded, hindered and stopped economic growth,” he said.

Among the reforms are plans to privatize state-owned companies, but Milei did not name specific firms.

In the past, Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist, has said he favors the privatization of state-owned oil company YPF.

Since his inauguration on Dec. 10, Milei has pledged “shock” therapy for the economy including deep spending cuts in a bid to tame triple-digit inflation.

The former TV pundit rode a wave of popular anger to victory, campaigning on a promise to reverse the prolonged economic slump and blaming corrupt elites for the country’s ills.

His government, which has devalued the local peso currency by over 50%, has said it plans to hike taxes for Argentina’s grains exports – a key source of global supply for processed soybeans, corn and wheat.

The push for higher taxes intended to raise revenue so that other levies can be lowered was met last week with surprise and criticisms from farm groups that predicted the measure would hurt the industry.

Grains exports are also a crucial source of foreign currency reserves for the central bank, needed to finance imports and pay down debts.

Earlier on Wednesday, thousands took to the streets of Buenos Aires, the capital, to protest the government’s austerity plans, lead by representatives for the unemployed demanding more support for the poor.

Argentina’s poverty rate soared past 40% in the first half of this year.

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Leslie Adler)