Paraguayan Senate approves coronavirus emergency bill

The Paraguayan Senate approved this Tuesday, in extraordinary session, the contingency plan presented this Monday by the Executive, which empowers them to borrow up to 1.6 billion dollars to reinforce the fight against the coronavirus and help the productive sectors before the stoppage of the economy.

The bill, which now goes to the Chamber of Deputies, was unanimously given the green light, with modifications, and the 25 legislators of the 45 in the chamber were still debating in particular the 55 articles after six hours of debate for their approval in general.

The president of the Senate Finance and Budgets Commission, Silvio Ovelar, explained that, of these items, 514 million dollars will go to health, to buy supplies, equipment, logistics and salary bonus for professionals in the first line of Attention.

Ovelar, from the ruling Colorado Party (conservative), stated that it is also planned to incorporate at least 300 new intensive care units, 230 mechanical ventilators and the purchase of 100,000 units of reagents for detection of COVID-19 "in real time" .

The acquisition of these reagents will serve to determine more precisely the number of positives, since the Ministry of Health itself does not rule out that underreporting is taking place because the health system can barely process around thirty daily tests.

To date, the country has registered, since March 7, 27 positives and two deaths.

The coronavirus pandemic reached Paraguay when the public health took a breather in the fight against dengue, whose endemic outbreak so far this year has left 51 dead of 23,922 confirmed cases of 172,864 reported febrile illnesses.


Regarding job protection, a subsidy for formal workers of 100 million dollars and informal workers is foreseen for a cost of 300 million, detailed Ovelar.

He also recalled that the bill proposed by the Government establishes a moratorium on the payment of taxes and on bills for drinking water, telecommunications and electricity.

In the case of informal employment, a subsidy of 25% of the legal minimum wage is studied, which is 2,192,839 guaraníes, about $ 331, so it would be just under 550,000 guaraníes, about $ 82.

Ovelar added that there will be exceptional resources to assist the agricultural, commercial and service sectors, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Although nobody opposed the project's goals, some opposition leaders questioned the origin of the resources, since there are $ 2,525 million from international loans in the process of execution that could be redirected.

In this sense, Senator Víctor Ríos, of the Liberal Party, the main opposition, wondered before the plenary session the reason for increasing the country's foreign debt, located at 7,238 million dollars at the end of 2019, as a monetary reserves of about $ 8 billion.

In this regard, the deputy ministers of Financial Administration, Óscar Llamosas, and of Taxation, Óscar Orué, who were present at the session when it split up in committee to answer questions, said that the reserves have other purposes, among them the protection of economic stability.

Llamosas and Orué accompanied the head of state, Mario Abdo Benítez, on Monday during the presentation of the project to the Upper House, when they clarified that the total or partial use of the credit line will depend on the impact of the virus in this country of 8 million population.

Llamosas pointed out that the first intention is "to use all the resources available in the Treasury", and then go into debt with international borrowers, with the placement of debt in the markets as a last option.


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