March 15, 2018 / 11:40 PM / a month ago

Paraguay presidential candidate would not change tax system

ASUNCION (Reuters) - The ruling-party candidate in Paraguay’s April 22 presidential election, Mario Abdo, told Reuters on Thursday he would not raise taxes on the country’s key farm sector despite opposition calls for a levy on soybean exports.

Presidential candidate Mario Abdo Benitez of the Colorado Party speaks to Reuters, in Asuncion, Paraguay March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

“If we increase taxes, we can lose competitiveness and attractiveness to national and foreign capital,” said Abdo. The 46-year-old former senator belongs to the Colorado party. He is facing opposition figure and lawyer Efraín Alegre in next month’s vote.

There is no independent polling being done on the race. Abdo says his opinion polls show him 30 points ahead, while polls done by the opposition show a technical tie.

Some analysts and opposition figures like Alegre say Paraguay’s agricultural sector, which has helped boost the country’s gross domestic product in recent decades, should increase its contribution to the treasury.

Presidential candidate Mario Abdo Benitez of the Colorado Party and his wife Silvana Lopez Moreira pose for a photograph during an interview with Reuters, in Asuncion, Paraguay March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

The country produced more than 10 million tonnes of soybean for the first time last year and supplies from the country are expected to continue growing.

Paraguay has also become a major international beef exporter.

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Abdo said in an interview that Paraguay should keep borrowing in the international capital markets to fund road and port projects that are key to growth.

“Within the debt structure, we also want to raise the percentage of multilateral credits, look for a balance. But we will continue with issuing bonds,” Abdo said.

The country issued a 30-year bond last week for $530 million at 5.6 percent.    

    Abdo’s father was private secretary and an influential figure in the government of Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled the country with an iron hand for 35 years. Abdo’s detractors call him “a son of the dictatorship”.

He calls the epithet unfair, considering he himself had nothing to do with the government of Stroessner, who was ousted in 1989.

“They criticize me for a past that I had no responsibility for,” he has said.

Paraguay’s next president will take power in August for a five-year term. Current President Horacio Cartes is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.

Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Peter Cooney

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