La Nación / Where is the storm pilot?

By Jorge Torres Romero

COLUMNIST

This week the General Budget of the Nation is defined in Congress. In theory it should be a realistic budget, according to the moment lived during this pandemic. The Executive Club of Paraguay, in cooperation with former authorities, carried out a study of it and compared it with the latest plans. They observed a notable expansion of expenses. In the next few days they will deliver the document to the Ministry of Finance and the Senate, hopefully it will be useful for something.

This budget has several weaknesses, according to Jaime Egüez, president of the executives. The high current expenditure remains uncontained. Paraguay is the first country with the highest increase in public spending over GDP and we continue to maintain a subsidy policy without having the ability to obtain money. Social assistance must be punctual and controlled.

With the drama of the pandemic, the first subsidized were the informal ones; that is, those who do not contribute, so the State must work on formalization to generate more income and have the capacity to respond.

Regarding the management of debts and current expenses, there are also no profound changes and nothing indicates that the fiscal deficit will be contained. Without the curb on current expenses and a stop to the issuance of new debts, the outlook becomes uncertain. And to top it all, the Executive did not want to put a stop to the social spending of the binational companies, which serve as “petty cash” for the governments of the day.

Added to this is the timely observation made by the Development in Democracy Foundation about the new Minister of Finance, who may be a good technician, but without the political waistline to stop the refutation of the political class precisely in an electoral year. Óscar Llamosas should be the finance minister with the least political weight in recent years. This weight is key for that position because we have a President of the Republic who exercises power in a hesitant, pendular way and with clear and played positions. With Benigno López, beyond the fact that he was the brother of the President, his own character contributed to closing the tap to avoid further waste.

Paraguay makes its debut as a country during each new government. Public policies are short-term, the works are projected so that the incumbent president unties the tape, that is, with no long-term vision. On Friday we spoke with Lauro Ramírez, president of Ferrocarriles Paraguay SA (Fepasa). The much talked about commuter train is still in feasibility studies. The Government does not have the resources for this, we depend on the generosity of the Koreans, who will donate the feasibility costs so that it can be carried out. On the way back, it is necessary to determine what will be the characteristics of the train that is suitable for Asunción and Greater Asunción, how the locomotive should be, where it should go (up or down), consumption, technical characteristics, demand, fare, financial capacity (public or private) and other details.

In other words, everything that was advanced in previous governments was buried.

We have a silent Planning ministry. Plans and achievable projects, drawn up by good technicians, sleep there, but they sleep the dream of the just waiting for a patriot to face them.

Last weekend we just had the storm that left 400 thousand homes in darkness. Back, the necessary debate arises, but postponed about what we should do with the Andes. Demonopolization, opening to the private sector, underground wiring, greater investment, the same verse that we have been hearing for 30 years. We still do not solve a question of basic services. Yesterday we had the “storm” of the EPP, and back the discussion and ideas will revolve around how we should do to combat them, but that discussion will continue, without finding the solution or concretion until another new storm arises. By the way, what does the self-declared storm pilot do? I may be wrong, but that’s what I think.

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