President Kirchner said Monday she will send a bill to Congress to nationalize the oil and gas company, YPF. Kirchner blames the company for falling oil and gas output, as well as the government’s growing need to import expensive fuel.
But it’s unclear how nationalizing the company will solve Argentina’s energy problems. Critics say the government itself is responsible for declining production. They cite unpredictable government policies and price caps, among other things, for the problems.
Raising production will require billions of dollars of investment in exploration and extraction. Where will that money come from now that the government will own the company?
Kirchner didn’t say.
Meanwhile, YPF’s parent company, Spain’s Repsol YPF, said it will fight the government’s decision, ensuring a lengthy and messy legal, political and economic battle over how the government will compensate Repsol for expropriating its top asset.
Within hours of the announcement, government officials were already in YPF’s building, located in Puerto Madero, taking over management of the company.
My colleagues and I wrote about the issue here for The Wall Street Journal.
More and more Argentines are traveling to the U.S.
Demand for U.S. tourist visas has soared by around 50% over the past year, according to the embassy.
“Last year the U.S. received more than 500,000 visitors from Argentina,” the embassy said.
Visa demand is so high that the Buenos Aires embassy now ranks among the top 10 worldwide in terms of tourist visa applications.
On average, the embassy handles more than 1,300 visa application a day. To meet the increased demand, the embassy has opened a new processing center and hired additional personnel.
About a year ago it took approximately four months to get a visa interview. Now “the visa interview can be be obtained in less than a week,” the embassy said in a statement.
To pay for the additional personnel and run the processing center, the embassy said it is raising the B1/B2 tourist visa application fee to US $160 from $140.
“The new amount faithfully reflects the costs our embassy needs to recover under US law through the visa application fee,” the embassy said.
The embassy didn’t say why visa demand is rising, but tourism sector officials say rising purchasing power is one factor making it easier for Argentines to travel. Another is the fact that Argentines can now pay for plane tickets in quotas spread out over months or years.
One interesting trend is the “viaje de quince” — more and more teenage girls are flying with their friends and families to the U.S. to celebrate their 15th birthday.
As you may know, Argentina bans iPhone imports because Apple won’t produce them in the country. I wrote about this for The Wall Street Journal here.
But as I’ve noted before, the import ban hasn’t stopped some of Argentina’s top officials from using the world’s most popular smartphone themselves. For previous evidence of that click here.
In today’s post you can see that even Argentina’s vice president, Amado Boudou, uses an iPhone. As you can see from the screen grab above, Boudou, a big Apple fan, used an iPhoto to post to Twitter. Ironically, the above Tweets are about imports. In one, he criticizes people for complaining about a “lack” of goods, saying that people who do this have political motives.
Says Boudou: “Argentina is open to the world but let’s not destroy the local industry” with imports.
HT to Facebook user Javier Mondini for catching this. You can follow Boudou on Twitter here.