Federal Judge Miguel Vaca Narvaja granted an injunction requested by the Assembly of Small and Medium Entrepreneurs Civil Association (APYME) in Córdoba (second largest State/Province of Argentina) to be exempt from the hikes issued by President Mauricio Macri's Cambiemos administration and implemented by Energy Minister Juan José Aranguren.
The decision applies to the whole country because in an earlier decision the judge established that protections are of collective and national nature.
The decision orders ENARGAS (national agency regulator) to draw back all increased tariffs rates for natural gas for SMEs to March 31 levels and keep them at such level until December 27.
The Judge also decided that energy corporations should reimburse SMEs all payments made under the increased natural gas tariffs rates, ordering a payment of invoices due in four monthly, equal and consecutive instalments, without interest or surcharges.
Consumers have already benefited from a prior injunction that obliged the Government to call for hearings that ended up with a proposal to increase only 203 percent the tariff price instead of 400 percent as initially announced. SMEs were not covered by this decision.
The Judge's considerations were similar to previous rulings for residential users in the sense that the increases of 500 percent for businesses was fixed unilaterally by the State without prior public consultation as mandated by law. The new decision applies to small and medium businesses, traders, service providers, agricultural producers, middle class or self-employed professionals. The Government is appealing the decision.
The decision came just weeks after San Martín Federal Judge Martina Isabel Forns blocked all electricity hikes issued by Aranguren and the energy ministry along similar lines to those applying to natural gas. In this case, the injunction was struck down by a subsequent Supreme Court ruling which handed a victory to Macri's government but only due to formal objections to the original complaint on legitimation grounds, as the petition was filed by politicians that could not invoke the representation of the consumers.
Similarly to the natural gas hearings, the Government announced that it will hold public consultations within one month's time as from October 28 day in which the decision was rendered.
INDEC REPORTED A HEALTHY TRADE SURPLUS
Greater exports and a reduction in imports to Argentina resulted in a trade surplus of US$ 705 million in August according to the Indec statistics bureau. In the same month last year the country ran a trade deficit of US$ 301 million.
The statistics bureau reported that exports worth US$5.752 billion were sold in August, a 12 percent increase in a year-on-year comparison, and that imports were down by 7.1 percent for a total of US$5.047 billion. The decrease was explained by a 6.7 percent increase in the volume of trade that was paired with a 13 percent reduction in prices.
While primary goods lead the way in August, agricultural exports actually fell by some 2.2 percent despite a 12 percent increase in the exports of maize to Brazil. Energy and fuel exports went up by 8.6 percent while the value of exported industrial goods inched up by 0.8 percent in comparison to 2015.
THE ECONOMY SHRANK 5.9% IN JULY
The economy registered the largest contraction in almost 14 years in July, shrinking by 5.9 percent when compared with the same month last year. INDEC statistics show lower consumer demand and industrial production (with manufacturing output down 7.9 percent) as factors in the downturn.
July was also 0.4 percent down from June (a contraction of -4.7 percent) with this year so far registering a 2.3 percent decline when measured against the first seven months of 2015.
Construction was down 23.1 percent from July last year and showing 2016 thus far having 14.1 percent less building activity than the first seven months of last year. The sharpest industrial declines were in raw steel (-17 percent), the auto industry (-12 percent with Brazil still in a slump) and mineral-based building materials (-11.6 percent).
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