Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Agony of Argentina

While the media has focused upon the economic woes of Venezuela many news outlets overlook the problems of other South American countries.

In Argentine, inflation and rising poverty have stirred outrage at austerity measures introduced by center-right President Mauricio Macri’s government in order to comply with the terms of a record $57 billion IMF bailout. Protesters have been camped near the Congress building since Wednesday to demand more funds be released for welfare programs and for soup kitchens and schools.

In the lower house Chamber of Deputies, it unanimously approved a draft emergency food law to release resources.

 “We are facing a problem of hunger, malnutrition and a sharp drop in income,” opposition lawmaker Daniel Arroyo, a co-author of the bill,explained

 The bill, yet to be approved by the Senate, would provide a 50 percent increase in food assistance programs to growing numbers of poor. Argentina has been in recession since 2018, with 32 percent of the population below the poverty line, and 10 percent unemployment. Inflation is expected to reach 55 percent this year.

Macri slashed subsidies for public utilities and other services pushing electricity and gas rates up significantly since the start of his term in 2015. The painful cuts, as part of the $57 billion standby agreement he negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year. From one of Argentina's wealthiest families, Macri came to power in 2015 on promises to kickstart Latin America's third-largest economy via a liberalisation wave. But the promised recovery has not materialized.

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