Argentina's president has announced increases of as much as 35 percent in cash handouts to the poor, students, pregnant women and retirees.

President Cristina Fernandez says the programs also will reach nearly 700,000 more children, expanding the social safety net and encouraging consumer spending this election year.

She says the total cost of the subsidies will grow from 24 billion pesos to 41 billion pesos, roughly equal to $7.8 billion a year at the official exchange rate.

Fernandez also says her government will be watching businesses closely and taking action against what she says are unjustified price increases that are fueling Argentina's inflation. The government says prices are rising about 10 percent a year, but private economists estimate the inflation rate is really two to three times more than that.