Accountability and budget bill passed in Uruguay despite fierce opposition

According to trade unions and progressive parties, the accountability and budget bill, presented by the right-wing government of President Luis Lacalle Pou, seeks to cut further the budgets for various public sectors in the name of government’s savings.

August 18, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
According to trade unions and progressive parties, the accountability and budget bill, presented by the right-wing government of President Luis Lacalle Pou, seeks to cut further the budgets for various public sectors in the name of government’s savings.

On August 16, members and legislators of Uruguay’s opposition party, Frente Amplio or Broad Front, took to the streets of the capital Montevideo to express their rejection of the accountability and budget bill presented by the right-wing government of President Luis Lacalle Pou. During a break from the plenary debate on the bill in the House of Representatives, legislators of the progressive party moved outside the legislative palace at around noon. They protested at the Plaza Primero de Mayo, situated in front of the congress, to condemn the bill that promotes further budget cuts in various public sectors.

The bill was passed after 15 hours of debate on August 17 by the House of Representatives with 55 of the 97 voting in favor.

At a press conference held on August 16, the Broad Front bench coordinator Carlos Varela said that “we are not going to vote on this accountability bill because it is regressive and negative for workers.” Varela also rejected the government’s plans to privatize the port of Montevideo and considered it an attack on the sovereignty of the country.

Deputy Ana Olivera explained why they say that the bill is about not savings but cuts. “Savings based on cuts in the salaries and pensions of public workers, including those from the health, education, and the police departments, is something that cannot be recognized by us because it directly affects our people,” stressed Olivera.

Meanwhile, deputy Gustavo Olmos criticized the lack of planning for the future. He pointed out that the national government has no plans for the generation of employment opportunities and protecting the jobs in the face of growing unemployment and bringing back the children who have been forced to abandon education due to economic difficulties.

At the same time, deputy Bettiana Díaz condemned the government’s handling of the economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of adjustment, of increase in poverty, of children eating in community kitchens, the year where less than half of the children had the internet to continue their school or high school. It will not be remembered for the great savings of the government, but for the cuts in public plans, salaries, pensions, from where the savings came,” stated Díaz.

The Broad Front party, in a report prepared by its members in the budget committee, highlighted that Uruguay is one of the countries that invested the least in combating the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. It pointed out that despite reports since May 2020 that 100,000 Uruguayans would fall into poverty, the government didn’t take any support measures.

The party criticized that the government projected a fall of 3.5% in GDP in the 2020 budget; however, in reality, it was 5.9%. It emphasized that according to the government’s projections, Uruguay will be the only country in the region that, by the end of 2021, will not be able to recover its level of pre-pandemic activity.

It condemned the fact that in 2020, there was a cost cut of 309 million dollars, of which 86 million were cut in public sector workers’ wages, 100 million in schools, hospitals, child and family care centers, among other social sectors, and 124 million in public investment projects.

The Broad Front also rejected the opacity in public finances and the lack of post-pandemic recovery policies.

 

In rejection of the same, today, on August 18, workers from various sectors will observe a 24-hour strike and hold mobilizations throughout the national territory.

The call for the strike, nationwide mobilizations, and a caravan in Montevideo was given by the Confederation of Organizations of State Officials (COFE). Later, the Federation of Public Health Officials (FFSP) and the Uruguayan Federation of Teachers – Primary Education Workers (FUM-TEP) expressed their support and joined the call. Both the health workers and teachers’ unions are demanding greater budgets for the sectors.