Top Argentina lawmaker named economy 'super minister' as crisis drags on

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Argentina's government on Thursday appointed the head of the country's lower house of Congress, Sergio Massa, as the new economy "super minister," as Buenos Aires attempts to surmount an economic crisis marked by soaring inflation.

Massa's appointment brings together three ministries under his supervision: economy, development and agriculture.

Some 37 percent of Argentina's population of 45 million live in poverty, while inflation for the first half of the year topped 36 percent.

Massa, a 50-year-old attorney by training who has been in politics for years, will take over his new post once he has properly stepped down from his seat in Congress, the office of President Alberto Fernandez said in a statement.

The previous economy minister Silvina Batakis, who had just returned from Washington where she held talks at the International Monetary Fund over Argentina's debt, will shift over to run the state-owned bank Banco Nacion.

Argentina, which earlier this year renegotiated repayments on a $44-billion loan with the IMF, has committed to reducing its public deficit from three percent in 2021 to 0.9 percent by 2024.

On Thursday, thousands of people demonstrated in Buenos Aires for a "universal salary" worth 67,000 pesos (around $490 at the official exchange rate), which amounts to the cost of two basic food baskets, for the country's lowest earners.

"Poverty has taken control of the country," Monica Sulle, a leader of the Socialist Workers' Movement (MST), told AFP.

"This unstoppable inflation is taking a seat at the family dinner table at every level of society, but in the poorest sectors, it's a catastrophe," said Vilma Ripoli, a leader of the Workers' Leftist Front (FIT).

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