BUENOS AIRES, July 13 (UPI) — Argentine President Mauricio Macri has urged citizens to use less electricity and natural gas amid protests over steep increases in utility rates.
On Monday, Macri’s government announced that there will be a 400-percent price cap on residential electricity and natural gas rates and a 500-percent price cap on increases for commercial users. The price caps will be maintained regardless of how much energy is used by consumers.
“We do not have enough energy, we can’t import more and we are consuming much more energy per person than most countries in the world,” Macri said.
Many Argentinians have protested the energy price increases. In some protests, hundreds of Argentinians have danced the iconic tango in the streets of Buenos Aires.
The cap will be applied retroactively, meaning citizens who paid rates higher than the cap from April 1 and onward will receive discounts on future invoices. The government will hold public hearings on utility rates in October, three months ahead of schedule.
About 300,000 families will receive subsidies for electricity as part of the recently established Social Tariff Extension for Vulnerable Neighborhoods program.
Macri was sworn in as president on Dec. 10. In January, his government announced it was reducing energy subsidies, which cost the country about $10 billion in 2015. The reduction of subsidies in Buenos Airies, the capital, led to a dramatic rise in rates.
“We face a problem of energy shortage and each year we consume more,” Macri said Tuesday. “Over the past decade, we passed from exporting gas to importing. We need to moderate our consumption and produce again to restore the energy equilibrium, while we attend in the transition to families who need it most.”