BUENOS AIRES: Argentine lawmakers on Thursday (Sep 12) unanimously approved a draft emergency food law to free up resources for social programmes amid a worsening economic crisis.
"We are facing a problem of hunger, malnutrition and a sharp drop in income," opposition lawmaker Daniel Arroyo, a co-author of the bill, told the lower house Chamber of Deputies.
Soaring inflation and rising poverty have stirred outrage at austerity measures introduced by centre-right President Mauricio Macri's government in order to comply with the terms of a record US$57 billion IMF bailout.
Thousands of protesters have been camped near the Congress building since Wednesday to demand more funds be released for welfare programmes and for soup kitchens and schools.
The bill, yet to be approved by the Senate, would provide a 50 per cent increase in food assistance programs to growing numbers of poor.
"We all have to help in a complicated context in which there are many people who are having a hard time," said Arroyo, a member of the leftist coalition of opposition leader Alberto Fernandez, who is favored to win October's presidential election.
Argentina has been in recession since 2018, with 32 percent of the population below the poverty line, and 10 per cent unemployment.
Macri has scrapped sales tax on some staples in recent weeks and increased bonuses in an attempt to alleviate social pressure. Nevertheless, inflation is expected to reach 55 percent this year.
Macri acknowledged on Thursday that many Argentine families "are finding it harder to make ends meet."
"Where this situation strikes most clearly is at the table of Argentines, which is the most important thing for the family."