Promise Kept: Javier Milei Cuts 9 Argentine Government Offices on First Day

Javier Milei
Emiliano Lasalvia / AFP via Getty

Argentine President Javier Milei used his first executive action in the top office on Sunday to dramatically rearrange the federal executive branch, reducing the number of cabinet-level ministries from 18 to nine.

Many of the ministries eliminated were folded into new offices, suggesting that their functions will continue with a much smaller office and reduced staff. Three ministries – the General Ministry, the Office of Media and Communications, and the Legal and Technical Office – were elevated to cabinet level. Milei put the General Ministry in the hands of his sister and campaign fixture Karina, which required the signing of a separate executive order to undo limitations on appointing family members to top positions.

The president – who campaigned as a small government, anti-socialist libertarian – made the elimination of at least half of the government’s top ministries a core campaign promise throughout 2023. In one of his most popular public appearances, he explained his plan by scratching ministries out of a large flow chart of the federal government one by one, describing many as ranging from useless to harmful.

Milei published a photo of his cabinet in the presidential offices in the early morning hours of Monday alongside his campaign slogan, “¡viva la libertad, carajo!” which roughly translates to, “long live liberty, damn it!”

The nine cabinet-level ministries in the Argentine federal government are now the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Economics, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Security, the Ministry of Health, and the new Ministry of Human Capital. The offices of the General Secretariat, Legal and Technical Secretariat, and Communications and Press Secretariat were elevated to the cabinet, as well, though they will not function as full ministries.

The eliminated ministries are officially part of other offices, likely resulting in the elimination of the jobs of those leading the ministries and many of its bureaucrats. The new Ministry of Human Capital absorbed the Ministry of Education; Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security; the Ministry of Culture; the Ministry of Social Development; and the Ministry of Women, Gender, and Diversity.

The Ministry of the Interior absorbed the Ministry of Sport and Tourism and the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The Ministry of Infrastructure absorbed the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Public Works, and the Ministry of Territorial Development and Habitat.

Newspapers greet the inauguration of Javier Milei on their covers in Buenos Aires on December 11, 2023. Argentina’s President Javier Milei took office Sunday with a stark warning to citizens to brace themselves for painful austerity measures as he seeks to cut spending and curb triple-digit inflation, all with empty coffers. (LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)

The cabinet chief will control the former Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation, while a separate Ministry of Justice and Human Rights will now simply be part of the greater Justice Ministry.

Other reforms made on the first day included the absorption of the federal penitentiary system into the Security Ministry and more offices folded under Human Capital: the National Institute of Associations and Social Economy and the National Institute for Family, Peasant, and Indigenous Agriculture.

Milei’s prodigious reduction in the size of government was not a surprise, though the speed at which he executed his commitment as a candidate has surprised some political observers in the country. He made several appearances on television explaining his plan, using a massive board showing the bloated size of the Argentine federal government and scribbling away the ministries he found unnecessary.

“It is been a long job, but from here to 15 years from now, we are going to have an Argentine where everyone wants to produce,” Milei told La Nación in August.

Some of the ministries Milei promised to eliminate still exist, most prominently the Health Ministry, which he accused of mishandling the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic and leading to thousands more deaths than necessary. It remains unclear if Milei will ultimately eliminate the ministry.

Argentina is currently facing the most severe economic crisis in its history, the result of decades of socialist government spending programs and poor management. It has one of the world’s highest inflation rates – reaching upwards of 140 percent – and is experiencing high unemployment, crime, and poverty rates. Milei has insisted that reducing government spending is a first step towards restoring the Argentine economy and making prosperity possible.

Given the poor state of the economy, however, government workers have balked at Milei’s plans, as they may potentially lose their jobs and have to compete in one of the world’s worst job markets. Addressing the concerns on Monday, Manuel Adorni, Milei’s presidential spokesman, insisted that productive state employees would keep their jobs.

“The vast majority of people who work for the state is valid, necessary, and in many times has been pushed aside,” Adorni explained. “I don’t see any public employee having to be worried about their job.”

“What we are not in agreement with, and we will combat, is what is called militant employment, which is a political matter, doesn’t produce anything and reduces the productivity, salary, and functions of the employee who wants to work,” Adorni added.

The spokesman, in his first official presidential press conference, told reporters that Milei has decided “to change at the root a sinister system, to define it harshly, that comes from what has been happening in Argentina where [you have] a sector of privileges versus a ton of people who are having a bad time because of leadership that for decades could not solve their problems.”

Javier Milei, the world’s first president elected on a libertarian third-party ticket, took office on Sunday in an inauguration ceremony attended by 25,000 people, according to Buenos Aires police. In his inauguration speech, Milei warned that the situation in the country would worsen before improving in the long term, but vowed to eliminate corruption and sloth at the federal level.

“For over 100 years, politicians have insisted in defending a model that the only thing it has generated is poverty, stagnation, and misery,” Milei asserted. “A model that considers the task of a politician to direct the lives of individuals in all facets and spheres possible. A model that sees the state as a war booty to share among friends.”

“We will advance with the changes that the country needs because we are sure that embracing the ideas of liberty is the only way that we will be able to get out of this hole they stuck us in,” Milei promised.

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