March 31, 2017 / 5:13 PM / 4 months ago

Argentina announces new gas price hike as part of fiscal effort

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BUENOS AIRES, March 31 (Reuters) - Argentina will raise gas prices an average 24 percent for consumers and companies starting April 1 in its latest bid to cut subsidies, control spending and reduce the country's high fiscal deficit, the government said on Friday.

Prices will rise between 19 percent and 34 percent for homes and up to 46 percent for companies, Energy Minister Juan Aranguren said at a news conference.

"The increase will end up at an average 24 percent nationwide for the residential and commercial sectors starting tomorrow, April 1," he told reporters.

The government held a public hearing on the price rise on March 10. The Supreme Court halted an earlier attempt at raising gas prices in August, saying the government did not hold a required hearing prior to announcing the increase.

The Argentine government sets gas prices for the country and has been raising them over the last few months.

President Mauricio Macri has implemented a number of market-friendly reforms since taking office in December 2015, including taking the country out of default to return to global credit markets and cutting subsidies after years of free-spending populism left a gaping fiscal deficit.

His government expects the deficit to fall from 4.2 percent this year to 3.2 percent in 2018 and 2.2 percent in 2019. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Maximilian Heath; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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