Argentina rolls out tax breaks, infrastructure spending to combat coronavirus crisis

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s economy minister pledged a package of decisive measures, including tax breaks and higher state spending on infrastructure, to protect the country’s already vulnerable economy from the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Martin Guzman told reporters in Buenos Aires the country would channel an additional 100 billion pesos ($1.58 billion) toward public works to help bolster an economy that has been mired in recession over the past two years.

“We are here to take decisive action to ensure that economic activity will function,” said Guzman, adding the outbreak created a crisis requiring a determined response.

Argentina has recorded 65 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and two deaths, according to the latest data. It has closed borders and ordered tough isolation measures to slow the spread of the respiratory illness.

The government earlier announced measures, including one-time payments for people on child and social support and for retirees, to help the most vulnerable groups in the face of the pandemic.

The latest measures involved tax relief for the hardest-hit sectors, bolstering employment guarantees and strengthening food supply in community soup kitchens for the poorest. The extra public works spending would target education and tourism.

The government will also launch a 350 billion peso ($5.55 billion) facility of low-cost credit “to guarantee the production and supply of food and basic supplies, boost activity and finance the operation of the economy.”

Reporting by Nicolas Misculin and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Peter Cooney