Uruguayan president Luis Lacalle Pou addressed Congress on Tuesday to report on his first year and one day in office, underlining the extraordinary 2020 pandemic year which surprised the world, and Uruguay, but he also made several announcements referred to future activities and investments.
Our government is profoundly committed to transparency and keeping all branches of government and the people informed of events. This is no time to speak of inheritances or legacies, but rather underline that there is no time for excuses, even when some could be valid, said Lacalle Pou at the start of his hour long speech.
The Uruguayan president recalled that the pandemic became official just a few days after he took office in March 2020, and many voices called for a complete lockdown and mandatory quarantine, but we preferred responsible freedom, which became the beacon for the action of this government.
Following the complexity of the situation we decided to call a group of scientists so as to make the best decisions possible, in reference to the Advisory Honorary Scientific Group, GACH.
The Uruguayan president also thanked all the health staff for their excellent and dedicated efforts during the pandemic, as well as recognition for academia in providing mechanisms to help identify and mitigate the impact of the situation.
Lacalle Pou then enumerated a series of measures implemented by his administration to address the loss of jobs, the fall of activity in different sectors of the economy, including exports and tourism, which represented a heavy toll for the Treasury. Likewise social transfers increased by 56% and benefited some 843,000 Uruguayans. The population of Uruguay is 3,6 million.
There was also a mention for the security and armed forces, involved in dispersing agglomerations and controlling borders, respectively.
Lacalle Pou had words of praise for the education community since contrary to most of the rest of the world, classes with children attending took place during several months of 2020.
Looking ahead into 2021, Lacalle Pou anticipated a series of reforms to be implemented with the support of the five-parties coalition that make up his government, and keeping with election campaign promises.
The president also referred to the omnibus bill of urgent consideration which had been agreed with coalition partners and was partly implemented with support of the Legislative despite the pandemic emergency. Structural reforms will be the agenda of the second half of 2021, once the vaccine campaign is over.
Despite the pandemic, we are optimistic, and look ahead with real optimism, he underlined.
In foreign policy, Lacalle Pou took time to speak about Mercosur, and its country members, demanding more flexibility, since the block can only approve measures by consensus and not a majority vote, limiting trade deals with third countries. He is optimistic that at a summit at the end of the month the issue with strong support from Brazil will be addressed, helping to boost the country's exports.
Finally Lacalle Pou mentioned that several of the exceptional measures, regarding support for jobs, small and medium companies will be extended, plus doubling family support payments with food baskets and funds for soup kitchens.
Regarding investments in 2021, Lacalle Pou mentioned a strategic understanding with the current administrator of the port of Montevideo involving some US$ 450 million, the concession of several airports which will generate US$ 65 million and a US$ 200 million project to build an alternative source of water for Montevideo and irrigation, sourced in the River Plate
Let us all look after our great country, for those of us now, and for those who will come, we will be meeting next year again in Congress, concluded Lacalle Pou.
Lacalle Pou sent a copy of this speech to Parliament on March first but waited until March 2 for the official ceremony because on Monday the Lower House changed of Speaker, which had been previously arranged would fall on a member of the opposition Broad Front.