“The Legislative Report is foremost a quantitative assessment of the output of Argentina’s National Congress. We combine this with a qualitative analysis of the workings of Parliament, to offer a nuanced picture of how effective and prolific Congress has been – or not – at producing, debating and voting on bills and proposals over the course of the year.”
On March 1st 2018, President Mauricio Macri got underway Congress’s ordinary session. He pledged to address “concrete challenges” albeit “not at the cost of ignoring other significant issues.” As the economy shrank hesitancy soon set in, however, with the president ending up vetoing an early proposal to freeze energy and water rates. Marked by an increasingly wary Executive, 2018 became the country’s least productive year in legislative terms in over three decades.
From March to November Congress passed 36 laws, over half of them backed by the Executive and pro-government legislators. For all the talk of a “joint agenda” in Congress, the proportion of bills put forward by the opposition fell sharply, to 22%, compared with 73% in 2016.
Unlike previous years, lawmaking in 2018 was skewed to fixing the economy. New laws were passed to bolster productivity, strengthen competition and encourage spending on home-produced goods and services. And then there was the hotly debated “zero deficit” budget brought in to comply with the IMF.
In a parliamentary sense, however, it is neither for its focus on the economy or for Congress’s sluggish output that the year will be remembered. What sets it apart was the open and vibrant debate that prevailed at times, vigorously fed into by non-government actors including civil society. Discussions around the decriminalization of abortion, notably, saw some 750 individuals – activists, academics and scientists, artists and religious leaders – give testimony directly to lawmakers.
A happier takeaway for 2018, then, was this upsurge in engagement and input from citizens and outside specialists.