Argentina has many institutional roadblocks to its economic prosperity, but there are some encouraging signs that signal a changing climate of opinion. Its government recently repealed an egregious tariff on laptops and tablets that was as high 35 percent in response to Libertad y Progreso’s very public campaign bringing awareness to the issue. Libertad y Progreso produced a video that received over 80,000 views and placed articles in three major outlets that shed light on the tariff that increased the cost on laptops by over 100 percent of what they cost in neighboring countries and over three times what they cost in the United States.
“One specific reform that we support is reducing taxes and tariffs to international trade,” said Marcos Hilding Ohlsson, a researcher at Libertad y Progreso. “Specifically, we worked on explaining the benefits of reducing tariffs on laptops and tablets. We explained in the main newspapers and TV programs that Argentina’s consumers paid higher prices on 3 million laptops or tablets each year to protect 1,900 jobs. The cost of higher prices was 15 times more than the total amount of the salaries being protected. Even though some jobs could be lost, many more could be created by reducing tariffs, and introducing cheaper technology also had a positive impact on education, creativity and competiveness. Our role was basically to pave the way for these reforms and to respond to attacks as these reforms were implemented. We also had discussions with labor unions and the chambers of the industry.”
Libertad y Progreso’s work to abolish the laptop and tablet tariffs was part of its grander vision to remove barriers to trade in Argentina. Its recent major report titled “Una Argentina Abierta” (“An Open Argentina”) examined the state of Argentina’s international trade, its deficiencies, and how greater integration can improve its position.
“Libertad y Progreso’s work consists of explaining, in friendly ways, the benefits of economic freedom in short videos, in TV debates, in media, and through our social networks,” continued Hilding Ohlsson. “Our second aim is to present public policy reforms to political leaders, explaining means of reducing government spending, taxes, and bureaucracy … Our independence form government and political parties, has helped us gained intellectual respect, so we can influence others.”
Libertad y Progreso is a recipient of Atlas Network’s Liberating Enterprise and Entrepreneurship grant, which is awarded to support think tanks outside of North America with ambitious and achievable plans to improve the public policy and regulatory environment in their countries, particularly in relation to limits on enterprise and entrepreneurship as measured in the Doing Business Index.
* We are grateful to the Atlas Foundation for this article.