The president of the Argentine Chamber of Construction has warned that construction companies have begun laying workers off in expectation of a collapse in public sector projects.
It follows president-elect Javier Milei’s statement shortly after winning the election that he would “cut off public works entirely”.
Milei said: “We do not have money, so these works can be delivered to the private sector and let the private sector finish them. We don’t have money, if there is a fiscal deficit. Let the mayors find a way to finance it.”
If Milei goes ahead with this policy, it would affect thousands of projects.
There are currently 2,308 public works projects underway in the country, involving investments of $861m.
Of these, 514 involve roads, 1,031 are for water and sewerage, and 763 cover social infrastructure such as hospitals and universities.
Argentina’s Infrastructure Ministry has estimated that 250,000 direct jobs would be lost if Milei abandoned all public sector projects.
Gustavo Weiss, the president of the Argentine Chamber of Construction (Camarco), told daily newspaper La Nueva that workers were being let go and construction activity was “decreasing significantly”.
He said that while some types of projects benefit from private finance, around 83% of global investment in infrastructure comes from the public sector.
A Camarco source told business website BNamericas that the cuts would affect projects that are already underway, but added they didn’t know any specific companies making workers redundant.
Weiss said the public sector owes $445m to contractors. He said construction activity was already in decline when the runoff vote took place on 19 November but that the outlook has worsened since then due to Milei’s pledges.
Milei, who referred to Camarco as a “chamber of corruption” during his campaign, will take office on 10 December.
As well as cutting public sector construction, he has said he intends to scrap most ministries, cut subsidies, reduce taxes, make labour market reforms, and introduce incentives for private investment.