Government and opposition mayors unanimously celebrate the Powers that the national government will grant them in the next few hours – via decree – to control the prices of small businesses in their districts. On the other hand, they analyze under the magnifying glass the fine line between taking care of the neighbors’ pocket and not cutting the supply chain in the midst of social, preventive and compulsory isolation.
Throughout these two weeks in which the bulk of the society stayed at home, only going out to shop in local stores to stock up to cope with the quarantine, community chiefs from the province of Buenos Aires have received innumerable number of complaints about excessive increases in the price of essential products: meats, vegetables, dairy products, and hygiene and pharmacy items such as gel alcohol, bleach, gloves and chinstraps, whose demand has increased exponentially after the insistent recommendations to maintain cleanliness in homes as a mechanism for preventing COVID-19.
The Government decided to set maximum prices for essential products, and to roll back the values of 2,300 items to the prices that prevailed on March 6. However, from audits carried out by AFIP and Consumer Defense, a notable non-compliance was registered in the rates, mostly by neighborhood businesses.
Before the cataract of protests by consumers, the mayors raised the problem to Alberto Fernández since according to current regulations, local authorities only have control capacity in matters of security, hygiene, food science, but not in cases of speculative merchants or price makers.
In dialogue with Infobae, Fernando Gray, mayor of Esteban Echeverría and vice president of the Buenos Aires Justicialista Party celebrated the decision adopted by Nación, since “this decree gives us powers to intervene on the price of the product.” Although until now he did not know the fine print of the regulations that will be published in the Official Gazette in the coming hours, he said that from now on they will be able to “establish sanctions as we do with the rest of the areas, of different scales, being the closure the maximum sanction ”.
Gray charted the difficulties that mayors had these two weeks to enforce that there are no excessive increases: “With Care Prices we begin to control prices but we do not have sanctioning powers; Then came the 2,000 products with maximum values and we began to receive complaints from neighbors, but we also have no way to intervene on the price. ” On the other hand, it included the problem of being able to identify where the increase in the product arises; if it is the responsibility of the merchant, or if this is one more victim of the producer, the intermediary, or the carrier: “It is an impossible discussion to determine from our place, because everyone blames the other.”
In the same tune, the mayor of Together for Change spoke with this medium, Diego Valenzuela, who stressed that the Nation tries to accommodate the situation by giving them “a role from the control”, however asked “That there is an analysis of the entire commercial chain.” “We see abusive prices and we do not have the tools to intervene, we find the merchant or supplier alive,” explained the communal head of February 3rd. As a political gesture, he stressed that from the opposition “We have the predisposition to help, it is a key issue in the quarantine.” “The municipalities are to collaborate because we are the closest link to the neighbors, then we have to see how much we can do with municipal resources that are always limited,” he warned.
In this sense, Valenzuela insisted on the need to analyze the entire commercial chain since “we cannot close lightly because we ran out of warehouses in the neighborhoods, today the supply is key to the quarantine.” “We have to achieve infractions, penalties that correct situations trying to prevent them from closing some businesses that are key to supplying people,” he explained about a possible side effect of this decree.
For his part, Jorge Macri, He stated that “this DNU gives us tools so that merchants do not have the excuse of saying that we are not empowered to control them, it gives us a framework of legality.” Given that the AMBA concentrates the largest number of coronavirus cases in the country, the mayors are subject to three central axes, explained the communal head of Vicente López: “Prepare for health needs and serve people; guarantee the food of all those who cannot access food today and limit the circulation to avoid contagion. “In this sense, the leader of the PRO pointed out that” one of the axes of work is to limit the livelihoods and mischief of the merchants or food distributors, who are often more rogue than merchants. “
Just as there is communion between mayors of the Front of All and Together for Change to support the DNU that will guarantee price control in businesses, arise questions between government officials and opponents about the need and how to apply these regulations.
The communal chief of Cambiemos, Julio Garro, in statements to Infobae, said that “with or without a decree” in La Plata “Prices were always controlled, both with the previous and current management, in small and large shops”. “There is a conviction -not only at critical moments like this- that the abuse is against the people, if it is not inflation it is the pandemic,” he explained about how he carries out his municipal management in this regard. “With or without a decree it is the obligation of each mayor to control and take care of price control within his municipality because ultimately it ends up impacting the people who have to govern”.
Almost alone, the macrista Javier Iguacel, from Capitán Sarmiento, opposes the regulations. He considered, through his social networks, that “the responsibility to take care of the prices” belongs exclusively to Alberto Fernández. Juan Zabaleta, communal chief of Hurlingham and one of those closest to the President, replied to the former Energy Minister of Mauricio Macri: “What a pity that there are some who seek to take political advantage in this difficult situation. Luckily, mayors of all spaces are going to take charge of taking care of people’s pockets. ”
With a strict request not to disclose the source, a Kirchner mayor reported that last Saturday from the Buenos Aires Government they had anticipated that this regulation would come out. Although he supported the decision since “now we will have more power to act,” he explained that “the decentralization of this is because the national government does not have the capacity to audit and inspect everything, and also so that the mayors have this flexibility.” According to the survey carried out in his district, the main problem is with grass, oil, sugar and dairy products, and he directly blames “the price makers”.
However, it untied the neighborhood stores, on which the national government mainly put the magnifying glass with this last measure: “They are not to blame, they show you the invoice, you see the cost they have and you cannot kill them.” In this sense, he questioned that “the minimum and maximum prices should have been done, being more specific between large and small shops.”
Yesterday Alberto Fernández charged directly against the smallest businesses: “Why were the large hypermarkets able to support prices when they were not exactly children of socialism? Why could they and the little one not? Because it is full of small merchants who speculate on the needs of their neighbors and charge them what they do not have to charge them. That also happens. That happens a lot. And the fact that it is small does not make it less ambitious and that must be corrected, ”questioned the president.
“It is very difficult to apply a general law in a sector where there are so many differences in competitiveness”, declared the mayor of Kirchner, who revealed that in his municipality, 85% of the products are at a lower price than what appears on the list published by the Government. “If you give the trade a minimum and a maximum, it puts the maximum on you … it is obvious that it will highlight you. If in 100 products you have 85 that are below, take the account of whether or not to publish a list where you are going to increase prices, “he warned.