Javier Milei’s First 100 Days: shaking up Argentina with bold reforms and controversy

3- Javier Milei president of Argentina speaks at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem Israel on , February 7 2024 Photos: Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg

In December 2023, Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian economist, took the helm of Argentina, a country grappling with one of the highest inflation rates in the world. Milei, an outsider with no strong party backing, won the presidency on a platform of radical economic reform, promising to tackle the country's inflation crisis head-on. His campaign was marked by proposals for the dollarization of the economy, significant deregulation, and a reduction in the size of the government. These promises resonated with an electorate desperate for change after decades of economic instability.

Upon taking office, Milei wasted no time in implementing his ambitious agenda. In his first three months, he declared an economic emergency, a move that allowed him to bypass Congress and issue decrees aimed at overhauling the Argentine economy. Among the most controversial of these was a decree composed of 366 articles, which included steps to privatize state-owned companies and deregulate various sectors. This decree also introduced labor reforms that limited severance pay and maternity leave and allowed companies to dismiss workers who partake in protests.

Milei's government faced immediate pushback, both from the public and the judiciary. Large-scale union protests erupted in response to the labor reforms, and a labor court struck down part of the emergency decree, marking Milei's first significant political defeat. Despite this, the administration appealed the decision, arguing that the Labor Court lacked jurisdiction, highlighting the contentious nature of Milei's early days in office.

Legislatively, Milei's ambitions were curtailed by his party's minority status in Congress. Despite winning 56 percent of the presidential vote, his party controls only a fraction of the seats in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. This lack of control forced Milei to seek support from other coalitions, leading to significant concessions. The omnibus bill, initially containing over 600 articles, was reduced by over half, with most fiscal reforms and controversial provisions removed.

Milei also targeted public media, announcing plans to shut down Télam, Argentina's largest public news service, accusing it of being a propaganda tool for the previous administration. This move, along with a ban on "Marxist" gender-neutral language in government documents, underscored Milei's confrontational approach to governance.

Economically, Milei's policies have led to a devaluation of the peso and a spike in inflation, exacerbating poverty levels. He has proposed cutting government spending on politicians and limiting terms for union leaders, while also planning to penalize officials responsible for financing fiscal deficits by printing money.

Milei's first three months in office have been marked by bold moves and significant challenges. His administration has sparked both hope and controversy, reflecting the deep divisions within Argentine society. As Argentina navigates this new era under Milei's leadership, the international community watches closely, aware of the broader implications of his presidency for the region.