Argentina: It’s Time for President Macri to Take on the Airline Unions

Once again, flying in Argentina was impossible because of the airline unions. It's time for Mauricio Macri to make real reforms, not merely be a political commentator.

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Argentina has long suffered from a severe lack of competition in its airline industry (PanAm Post).

On more than one occasion, we have pointed out in the PanAm Post the almost bipolar role of the Argentine president, Mauricio Macri. In public settings, especially in international forums, his words are concrete, his diagnoses are correct, and his proposals are the ones necessary to extricate Argentina from the quicksand of backwardness and economic malaise. But when it comes to carrying out effective public policies, through his role as head of the executive branch, everything is diluted. There the excuses begin, the “gradualism”, the double speak, and everything is limited to promises and threats: in the future things will be better, but the electorate must support us unconditionally, because otherwise, Kirchnerism will return.

With the signing of the free trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union, Macrismo was able to improve upon his role as as a mere “commentator.” While none of the benefits will be enjoyed in the short term, it was an appreciable advance. Of course, the path is not entirely clear: France still has concerns, and is asking for “guarantees.” Argentina’s Congress must sign on to the agreement and only then will the advancement begin. But Macri scored the achievement as a victory of his own, and is already moving on to negotiate the next round of agreements with the United States and Canada. In short, there is still nothing concrete, but the Argentine president is again asking for a vote of confidence from the electorate, based on his ability to deliver meaningful economic reform.

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It makes sense that in the future these projects will be necessary and beneficial, and some patience is required. However, there are many things that Macri could do right now, in addition to medium and long-term projects, on the road to resurrecting Argentina’s economy.

Once again, the airline unions wreak havoc

This long weekend in Argentina, many families organized mini-vacations, which were jeopardized because the airline unions chose the worst time to go on strike. The screens at Ezeiza Airport and Aeroparque were filled with announcements of canceled flights, and once again, chaos ensued. The result was thousands of ruined plans for people and families who thought that they could trust the reputation of a ticket from the state airline, Aerolíneas Argentinas.

The Institute for Business Development of Argentina (IDEA) harshly questioned the measure: “We totally reject the abusive measures by the Union of Pilots and Flight Attendants that have taken society hostage, conspired against the creation of Argentine employment, and done nothing to further workers’ rights,” said the statement of the entity.

Macri, in cojunction with his projects for the Argentina of the future, must start making forceful decisions today. The unions can not continue basing their actions on extortion, and Aerolineas Argentinas can not continue to suck off the state teat, and use mafia-style methods to trample the competition. The role of a government commentator who “asks” trade unionists for responsibility and sensitivity is foolish.

To believe in future projects you also have to focus on what can be done today, and reasonable goals are within reach.

As it currently stands, Argentina has one of the most closed aviation markets in the world, and little competition, leading to high prices and poor service. So much for the concept of a “state-owned” airline.

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