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Economist magazine bashes Argentina!

May 30, 2013

Despite the breadth and quality of the Economist magazine’s international coverage, I often don’t bother reading stories on certain subjects because I already know what they’re going to say. Argentina is one topic which tends to bring out a particular strand of swivel-eyed lunacy.

A Decade of Division” shouts the latest headline, above an article about ten years of rule by Nestor and Christina Fernández de Kirchner. The piece criticises the husband and wife pair for allegedly agreeing to take turns at the presidency, a plan which Nestor spoiled by inconveniently dying of a heart attack in 2010.

But before that he “pulled a subtler, counterintuitive power play: he stepped aside.” Stalinist! Clearly he must have thought that no Argentine voting in the 2007 election would have the gumption to vote for anyone other than his wife, who again won hands-down in 2011.

The article makes much of “rumours” “swirling” that Fernández might amend the constitution to seek a third term. “But she seemed to suggest otherwise when she spoke to supporters at her anniversary party on May 25th, stating: “I’m not eternal, nor do I want to be.” Ah. So she probably won’t seek a third term, then.

We just spent four months in the country travelling from north to south. We didn’t experience a country worthy of the mouth-frothing and negativity so prevalent in the English-language international media. Since Kirchner’s election in 2003 the economy has boomed, with a faster and more sustainable growth path than under the right-wing era of the 1990s. Domestic industry has flourished and the economy has avoided the dependence on the financial sector that artificially propped up many developed countries then sent them into slump. Poverty has fallen dramatically. As many as half of all families were poor at the height of the crisis, compared with around a tenth now. Unemployment is much lower now than in Europe. Until recently inflation has been manageable. Many Argentines actually still like Fernández, particularly because she has done something to tackle poverty.

Some Argentineans, smiling.

Some Argentineans, smiling.

This isn’t to suggest that everything is smiles — and nothing would excuse further concentration of power or the amendment of the constitution so as to support a third term for Fernández. Inflation is also clearly a big problem, as is the massaging of statistics. The black market dollar rate has diverged significantly from the official rate in the last few months, suggesting a worrying downturn in confidence. Calle Florida in Buenos Aires heaves with money changers. The middle class apparently take regular trips to Uruguay to get dollars.

But it does seem that publications like the Economist, and its readers, dislike Argentina’s alternative economic policy so much and want to punish it for its 2001 sovereign default, that they will concoct a negative story whatever the reality. Reading the comments under the Economist piece you’d think that the country’s economic performance in the 2000s didn’t outstrip either of the previous two decades or that the country has somehow been less politically stable. One poster says that the country used to be as wealthy as Australia and that somehow it’s the Kirchners’ fault. Er, maybe it was rich 100 years ago. The long-term decline in the country’s relative world economic standing might have something to do with the intervening century, during which it was ruled by dictators and quasi-fascists.

While in the country I began to wonder whether the Argentina that the Economist referred to was some other land, some fictional anti-Xanadu where journalists project their dystopias. The reality’s not that bad.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Alan Gay permalink
    May 31, 2013 9:07 am

    Well, the way a country is represented is very often made from ideology perspective of the ruling elite, for their own interests. Only those on the ground experiencing real life know something akin to truth.

  2. May 31, 2013 11:42 am

    Poor little Argentina. If only they were a member of the Euro Zone everything would be sunshine and rainbows and no country would ever go broke and put an entire continent into crisis. What’s that darling? Mario Monti is on the phone?

  3. guabin permalink
    May 31, 2013 12:16 pm

    As ‘poster child’ of the ruinous ‘Washington Consensus’, Argentina will have learned that assured gain to foreign banks and corporate interests was cruel, criminal and unacceptable pain to its citizens. To have repudiated neoliberalism would be understandably unforgivable, and the corporate media would necessarily be duty bound to distort reality to demonise the victim. Chavez and China, in providing some space for economic independence, did not help matters. Still, The Economist is mild compared with WaPo and NYT toward Chavez and now Maduro.

    • May 31, 2013 1:52 pm

      Guabin, i couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I begin to tire of media critique, which can sound like conspiracist schoolboy whining. But then I actually visit a country and discover that much of what i’ve read in the mainstream press is just bullshit.

      A good example is Cuba — which is almost universally damned. A recent National Geographic article, published when we were visiting for two months, seemed like an Alice-in-Wonderland version of the country. Almost everything in the article was the direct opposite of what we experienced. Nobody in the photos smiled, people were supposed to be hungry, everybody hated the regime and they’re all trying to leave. Nuance — not a bit of it.

      Thankfully i’m not as exposed to the New York Times or Washington Post. Luckily most Argentineans and others are similarly unconcerned about what these publications say, and carry on regardless.

      • guabin permalink
        June 1, 2013 12:29 pm

        To expect the corporate MSM to inform the public is to believe in illusions. The sole aim of the corporate MSM is to promote the interests of the privileged class, To know that Cuba, inter alia, has one of the highest literacy rates in world and has high quality health care, despite the maleficence of the US, is to know you did not learn that from the MSM, whose mission is to discredit that reality. The blog can now lead the away from the unhealthy ‘learned behaviour’ of reading newspapers, aside, perhaps, The Guardian or the Independent.

        If we recall that constant discrediting failed to discredit an obviously misleading and socially pernicious GITD – but for exposure of an amateurish Excel error, minor in the scheme of things, discovered by a grad student in a replication exercise – we realise that blogs as this are essential in, at least, promoting healthy scepticism toward official utterances that some policy, written by vested interests, is good for us. That explains why repetition is necessary,, as shown by folk of the likes of Dean Baker or Krugman or Wren-Lewis. The road is long.

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