Fact Check: Argentina

958 days, 18 hours, 33 minutes ago


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Reality vs. Relato

Axel Kicillof made a telling but revealing error last week.  He was asked how many poor people there are in Argentina – a statistic that, arguably, every senior finance minister in the world can recite in several languages, right off the cuff, because that’s one of the most important statistics to know.  Especially a government with a relato (narrative) of having made a tremendous reduction in poverty during its rule.  Normally that would require a simple set of numbers to show it.  But Kicillof came up empty.

“How many poor people there are is a pretty complicated question. I don’t have the number of poor people.  I believe that measure is a bit stigmatizing,” he said, after stumbling over his words a bit.  The truth is that the government has stopped publishing poverty data since 2013, and what it has published on inflation and economic growth are such tainted and manipulated measures that there isn’t a single international entity – nor any Argentine entity outside the government’s control – which accepts them as truthful.  The relato says the Kirchner government has been a gigantic economic success and poverty has been drastically reduced.   The reality is that the government has doctored or eliminated the statistical reporting necessary to prove that argument.  They wouldn’t be hiding the evidence if it proved their point.  A study by the prestigious Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) found that poverty increased in the year after statistics stopped being published.

The unfortunate truth, for both Kicillof and the Argentine people, is that if President Kirchner had made a serious effort to normalize Argentina’s status with capital markets, her government would probably be sporting real, credible statistics today that would be the envy of the developing world.  Had Argentina settled with all its creditors years ago, instead of going into default last year, the inflow of dollars would have been huge in comparison to today.   That would mean major, substantial announcements every week over national television of big infrastructure projects, major investments in health and education and rivers and technology, and no restraints on imports for industrial production, allowing factories to flourish again.  It might have been a cadena nacional that the Argentine people would have actually wanted to watch week after week, and an economic reality that the independent media would have reported accurately instead of the economic mess that the Kirchner government is trying to hide, and the hapless Economy Minister can’t answer for.