Argentina: National home loans programme launched
The national government launches home loans programme; Fernández de Kirchner takes Malvinas claim to UN; new passport announced.
National home loans programme launched
On Tuesday this week, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a decree creating the Programa de Crédito Argentino del Bicentenario (Argentine Credit Programme for the Bicentenary – PRO.CRE.AR). The scheme is designed to provide affordable loans for the construction of new housing across the country.
The programme, which will use funds from ANSES, the state social security fund, plans to provide 100,000 loans for new housing to both to applicants who already possess suitable land for construction and those who do not. The state intends to provide 1,700 hectares of land for new constructions across the country.
The loan terms will vary from 20 to 30 years, and interest rates from 2% to 16%, depending on the financial situation of the applicant. Loans will be available to applicants with a monthly salary of up to 30,000 pesos (US$6,683), and the maximum loan amount will be 350,000 pesos (US$77,968).
According to a recent study by the Interamerican Development Bank, some 12.8 million Argentines, or 32% of the population of 40 million, do not have access to decent housing. The study indicates that Buenos Aires’ cheapest housing, at US$44,200, is among the most expensive in Latin America. Only in Caracas is it more expensive, at US$54,100.
Moreover, it takes 45 months’ worth of average salary to be able to buy the Argentine capital’s least expensive housing. This is longer than in any other Latin American capital.
The government’s plan aims to reach 400,000 Argentines. Axel Kicillof, deputy minister for the economy, explained at the official launch that the focus on new constructions was aimed to avoid creating a housing bubble. This was read by some as implicit criticism of a similar programme recently launched by the Buenos Aires city government, which is providing housing loans for pre-existing properties within the capital.
The new scheme has not been free of controversy, notably over the use of ANSES funds. Figures from from the opposition UCR (Union Cívica Radical – Radical Civic Union) have claimed that since the funds’ primary purpose is to provide for state pensions, they remain private property of the workers who have contributed to them.
ANSES money is currently being used to fund programmes such as the universal child benefit and the free provision of netbooks in schools.
Fernández de Kirchner takes Malvinas/Falklands claim to UN
In an appearance before the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonisation in New York on Thursday, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner again asked for ‘dialogue’ with the United Kingdom over the sovereignty of the South Atlantic it claims as the Malvinas, and which are governed by the UK as the Falklands.
On the same day, which marked the 30th anniversary of the war fought between the two countries over the islands, British Prime Minister David Cameron flew the Falkland Islands Government flag next to the Union Flag above his residence at 10 Downing Street.
Earlier in the week, the Falkland Islands Government announced that it would hold a referendum among the territory’s 3,000 inhabitants in 2013, to ask whether they wish to remain as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.
The Argentine government refuses to recognise the islanders’ right to self-determination, saying that the islanders are part of a British ‘colonial enclave’. UK Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne this week countered that argument by noting that other than in matters of defence, the islands are self-governing.
New passport announced
The Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo this week announced from now on, new Argentine passports will contain a chip with biometric data.
The price of the document will also increase by 60% from 250 pesos (US$56) to 400 (US$89). The last increase was in April of this year, from 130 to 250 pesos. Existing passports will remain valid until their expiry date.
Randazzo used the announcement to express a hope that the move would allow Argentina’s entry into the USA’s Visa Waiver Programme. Sources from the US Embassy in Buenos Aires were reported to have responded that the move was ‘an important step’, but ‘[did] not guarantee’ entry to the programme by itself.
Mixed week for Argentine sport
While Buenos Aires football club Boca Juniors won the first leg of their semifinal in South America’s Copa Libertadores, their arch-rivals River Plate have had a terrible week.
The troubles began on Sunday 11 June when, before a second division match between River and Boca Unidos, a River Plate fan was stabbed to death by a member of the club’s ‘barrabrava’ (fan association) in their own stadium. The suspected muderer, 26-year old Matías Soria, was arrested in the city of Mendoza on Friday.
Later in the week, a player from second division team Patronato de Paraná suggested in a press conference that River Plate had given his club ‘financial incentives’ to beat rivals Rosario Central. Such an act carrries a penalty of between four months’ and two years’ suspension from football for the club involved.
Argentine tennis player David Nalbandian ended the week in particularly disastrous fashion. On Sunday 17 June he was winning 7-6 (3), 3-4 against Marin Cilic in the final of London’s Queen’s tournament.
But in a furious reaction at his serve being broken by Cilic, Nalbandian kicked out at a wood panel which then collided with a line judge’s leg, drawing blood. As a result, Nalbandian was disqualified from the tournament and Cilic named champion.