By Maximilian Heath
BENAVIDEZ, Argentina (Reuters) - Argentina's ruling party presidential candidate Daniel Scioli would improve benefits to retired people and pay for the increase in part by tapping the country's social security system, he told Reuters late on Saturday.
After a weaker-than-expected performance in the Oct. 25 election, in which opposition candidate Mauricio Macri easily forced a second-round vote, Scioli said retirees receiving the minimum monthly retirement benefit of 4,300 pesos per month would get 4,969 pesos ($520) if he wins the presidency.
"We will finance (the increase in retirement payments) through a combination of funds from the social security system and the national treasury," Scioli said in an interview.
Scioli's government would adopt a system in which retirees would get 83 percent of minimum wage, he said.
Benefits could rise rapidly as labor unions negotiate wage deals based on private inflation estimates, which say consumer prices are rising by about 25 percent per year.
Both Scioli and Macri are courting voters who supported third place candidate Sergio Massa, a moderate congressman who did not make it into the run-off.
"We have to interpret what those who voted for Massa want," Scioli said in the interview. "For example, retirees. We have to hear them and understand they have needs that need to be met."
Scioli also said he would get rid of wheat and corn export taxes, now respectively at 23 percent and 20 percent, and gradually reduce the 35-percent levy that the current government puts on soybean exports.
Asked if he would ditch the corn and wheat taxes immediately upon taking office, Scioli told reporters, "Yes".
Macri has long promised the same farm tax reforms.
The fact that both now promise a quick end to corn export taxes could prompt higher-than-expected corn exports at a time when farmers the United States, the top corn exporter, are already nervous about their competitiveness.
The winner will succeed President Cristina Fernandez and be sworn in on Dec. 10. Fernandez, loved by many of the nation's poor for her generous welfare spending but characterized by others as a free-spending populist, is barred by law from running for a third consecutive term this year.
Fernandez reluctantly endorsed the more business-friendly Scioli as her party's candidate earlier this year. Although from the same party, Fernandez's inner circle is far to the left of Scioli.
The local press has been full of accounts of rising tensions between the Fernandez and Scioli camps since his anemic performance in the Oct. 25 election.
(Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Christopher Cushing)