I was Investigating on the evolution of Argentina's Foreign Debt over the past 150 years or so (history is a pasion I tend to keep offline, for reasons unknown), when I came across CIA's World Factbook entry on this country. Upon other interesting (and rather unbiased) facts one can read this tidbit:
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 22% based on non-official estimates; the much lower official rate lacks credibility (2008 est.)
The official rate (as measured by INDEC) was 7.2% for that same period.
I can't help but wonder how is it that we, Argentines, can allow a government to systematically lie to us. It is plainly unacceptable.
Yet there are many people who benefit from this double standards situation. No one on the middle class does, but Argentine governments have proved a serious expertise on slaughtering Argentina's middle class.
As part of a global community, and part of a global (or worldsourced) company it is very difficult to explain this kind of crap to people in places that make some more sense.
Oh, and before I forget, according to the same CIA factbook, Argentina Ranks #211 out of 224 in inflation. Hey! lets look at it from the bright side, at least this is not (yet?) Zimbabwe with a 11,000,000% inflation in 2008.
Also, we are in good company with countries such as Venezuela, Iran or Nicaragua.
I know I repeat myself, but here's the twist: there are several pressing matters in Argentina today. The one that makes the most headlines is the lack of security. As in going out to the street and being mobbed, robbed or killed. That has started an idiotic discussion on installing the Death Penalty.Needless to say I oppose it without any contemplations.
The thing is, such discussions are nothing else than mere distractions of the real issues we face. insecurity is nothing else than a by-product of the lack of serious and permanent policies. Each government is more interested in trying to be as corrupt as they can, instead of trying to make life better for the same people that voted them.
How can we even suggest giving a state that lies on a permanent basis the power to kill? It is plainly stupid. We are being idiotic.
Is Argentina beyond saving? I fear so. The only reason we are not Ethiopia or Afghanistan is because we are blessed enough to have an abundance in natural resources.
Until we realize as a nation that changin reality is something that needs to be done collectively we will be lied to, stupidized, and led to think irrelevant matters we will not surge from the downward spiral we've been in since the 1930s.
We are corrupt, at all levels. We are all corrupt. We like the easy way out from all situations. Nothing can be built until we extirpate that from our national DNA.
This past summer, while at Junin for new year we went to some friends' country house. While we were scorching under the sun a fast storm front approached.
It took me quite a while to upload this pictures (don't know why), but I thought I'd share.
(click on the images for full size and technicolor glory @ flickr)
Colour mixed Fields:
People who read this blog are aware that I am a BMW fan. There is a long personal and family history with the German car maker. Thus yesterday was a special day. BMW-Sauber secured its first GP win at Canada. Not only that, they finished both First (Kubica) and Second (Heidfeld). And to top it all Robert Kubica is now at #1in the drivers championship.
After Lewis Hamilton crashed into Kimi's car at the exit of the pit lane I started suffering. I wondered "what can go wrong?". Fortunately nothing broke, and neither Robert or Nick crashed...
Just 1 year after the massive accident the Pole driver had in Canada the way he set the pace and won the race was nothing short of amazing.
But my blissful day didn't end there. During the afternoon my Football (Soccer, ugh) team became Argentinean Champion for the first time in 4 years. After being left out of the "Libertadores Cup" on a not-so-nice way It was a great relief.
I am a happy man!
Or a handbook on how Argentinian Government runs this country.
87 fucking days. That is how long the strikes and protests from the rural workers has lasted. There have been ups and downs. We've seen Supermarket shelves empty and fill up again. Now we see them emptying.
What is going on around here is the kind of idiotic fight our current government loves to get into. Their definition of strength is to never step back a single inch. It would seem that "to talk" equals "debility" in their deranged and power blinded minds.
It all started due to a tax imposition to agricultural exports. With soybean and other commodities at record prices Government thought it would be a good idea to increase the export fees. There were two problems with this: a. It didn't contemplate that such high taxes would strangle small producers and b. the money will most certainly go to some obscure account somewhere in the Cayman Islands.
If a government calculates year-to-year inflation in 9% and independent studies show it could be nowhere bellow 25% one of two things must be happening. Those in charge of price variation measurements are either morons (and they need to quit) or they lie (and they need to quit). Only in a country such as Argentina can something so obscenely absurd can be sustained for so long.
The sheer lack of political intelligence to solve something as primary as food production in a country which has historically based its economy on... Guess what? food production, demostrates that this government (as those that preceded) cares not about the general wellbeing but to make as much money as they can during their time in power.
I don't think I have ever came across a policy that was thought to last for longer than a couple of years in my entire adulthood. A country is not built upon temporary fixes. A country is built with a general direction in mind, with a common goal, with planning, with long term policies.
Argentina survives by the sheer fact that we have settled on a blessed land. All it takes is to toss a couple of seeds and plants grow. Drill a hole on a mountain and some mineral pops out. Anyone who ever visits is amazed by the beauty of the geography. Maybe that's our problem, we take things for granted. Way too much. (There is even an old Joke about that: God is creating Earth and places great farmlands, beautiful mountains, amazing coastlines all in the same place; some Archangel comes and notices this; thus he asks God if he didn't go too far with the good things on this particular land. God smiles and replies: "maybe, but I'm going to fill it up with Argentinians")
This government (and their farmer counterparts) are sickening. The greed and idiocy on the method never cease to amuse me in the worst possible way.
(can you tell I'm pissed?)
I set up my brother with a blog last March. He didn't pay much attention to it till now.
He has just made a great post (with excellent Pictures) on Argentine Dinner ("Criollo"). English-only speakers will have to live with just the pictures for this one.
Christian is an Excellent Chef, working at a top-notch restaurant in Bariloche, my hometown. I think he has a great potential for an exquisite Blog, let's hope he keeps it up.
As you can see I'm trying to pass on the passion for blogging.
I've been quite moderate on this blog. I have not posted rants against ISPs, mobile companies and other things to keep this place focused and peaceful. Also keeping a behavior shows respect to my blogroll and the company I work for.
From time to time events kill the "English Lord" that posts here and give way to the Viking in me. Let the villages burn.
I have posted before on the inflationary conditions in Argentina. I have also posted on how the government tweaks the figures. This has not changed, it has gotten worst.
One of the few things that can really upset me is being treated like an idiot. I might not be the smartest guy on the room, but I most certainly passed 3rd grade math. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when comparing the way my expenses go up and the figures the Government states aren't even on the same league. According to the government the expected increase on inflation is 9.8%; private analysts state it will be around 20%, my experience tells me they both fall short.
Some examples: Starting in December my rent will go up by 47%. No, I'm not moving to a larger flat or a fancier neighborhood; I'm staying at the same exact apartment. Need another example? For the past 7 months I've made the same monthly grocery store list (thanks to technology it is saved on my e-grocery account). Over that period it has increased 25%. 7 Months, out of 11 in the year.
So as if the inflation didn't already put enough stress into everybody's psyche, one has to cope with the lies. In our faces, every day, on every newspaper and every TV news program.
The side effects of the inflation are also quite scary. Argentina's current "boom" relies on the sole fact of a cheap currency opposed to the US dollar or the Euro. There haven't been any substantial investments in infrastructure, R&D or education for the country to be competitive for different reasons. As inflation increases, it puts pressure on salaries which detriment that unique competitive advantage. The risk resides on the government assuming that the only way out is to further depreciate the peso, which would, in turn yield more inflation.
I shall be pessimist; but I see no win in this situation. Either way it's going to be nasty, and I don't trust that those in charge (or soon to be in charge) are smart and bold enough to reverse the situation.
With some luck I'll be wrong and I'll have to eat my words. Let's hope that happens, my pride is not that big.
Down here in Argentina you have to do too much through governmental offices. Today I went to have my "official" address changed. It is still Bariloche, although I've left the place 10 years ago. I wouldn't of bothered in doing so unless I was forced to do so. And I am.
My driver's license has expired and my options are: go to Bariloche and have it done or change my address and do it here.
Quite reluctantly I woke up early and headed out on a cold and rainy day. Useless. The suckers are on strike.
If anyone ever feels non-productive I have the perfect remedy, visit one of such offices. The usual picture is: 2 people slowly working and 12 drinking coffee, having snacks or just chatting around while 200 to 250 wait in line to get their chance to do whatever they need. That is if you get lucky and they are actually doing any work.
It is not as if people have a choice. Its the only alternative. My ISP does not provide me the service I need, I change provider. Same with my cell and same with a lot of other things. But there is no alternate government. We're stuck with centuries of an increasing tradition in inefficiency.
I guess I'll be traveling to Bariloche to have my License renewed soon. (Which is also an excellent excuse to visit the family)
"Cambalache" is the trade of small value items. It is also a place where this trades happen, sort of like a flea market. The term is also used in Argentina as a synonym of mess, mainly due to the influence of the Tango by Enrique Santos Discepolo. In his lyrics the lack of traditional values and the fact that in the 20th century it doesn't really matter if you are good or bad are depicted.
In Argentina elections are to be held this next October. Everything seems to indicate that the first lady is going to win quite easily the election for President. But here comes the mess. If you don't understand a single thing about what you're about to read, fear not, I don't understand it myself.
The "UCR" is split up in two, half support the current government and the other half supports a former Economy minister of the same government, Lavagna. I think I should note here that neither the current government or Lavagna ever belonged to the UCR, quite on the contrary, they have always belonged to their political nemesis, the "Justicialistas" (or "Peronistas"). To make an analogy with the US, it would be like having the Democrats supporting Condoleezza Rice to run for office.
Wait, it gets more messy.
With this the main opposing party is the "PRO", which recently won the major elections for the City of Buenos Aires. One would think that they would try to capitalize that in the upcoming presidential election. Wrong. That party supports different candidates in different places, so, they have one candidate in the city of Buenos Aires, but a different one in the Province of Buenos Aires...
The saddest part is not the mess, but the lack of real choices. There isn't a single candidate I would think of voting for president this upcoming election. Which is a lot to state, since there are at least 12 different presidential formulas I know of.
2001 comes to mind. I remember that sense of something imminent. Not necessarily good, although I always try to expect the best.
Back in that date, Argentina went down the drain. Default, looting, and the peso's devaluation to 1/3 it's previous value. Although at the moment it was sort of awful; one must admit it was ought to happen, and the country's reactivation is due to us being cheap now.
Yet Argentina's economy is far from being solid. Sure enough commercial and fiscal surplus are good signs, exports are solid (although still based on basic exports such as meat, wheat, soy and not in manufactured goods), unemployment is going down. What's wrong then? Inflation. And in industrial quantities.
2006 inflation, according to official figures was 10%. January 2007 was 1.1 (official). Although the "basic basket" went up by 2.6%. It must be noted how the government tries to prevent any independent studies from happening. My guess is that the real inflation is at least twice of what is exposed by the authorities. Tempt me and I'll say it is even higher. My "own" independent study (comparing groceries list of January 2006 with the one I ordered today) indicates something around 40%.
The problems inflation carries are well known. For starters as salaries don't increase as fast (or as much) as inflation people's "buying margin" decreases. But increasing salaries actually fuels inflation, since as companies have to pay more to their employees, while trying to sustain the profit margin, they pump prices.
Exports don't help much in this situation. Since the rest of the world is willing to pay more for the same things than the internal market, exporting is much more tempting. The results? In a country well known for cows and BBQ you can't find a decent piece of meat in a lot of places.
The sense that the government has absolutely no clue on how to solve this is anything but reassuring. We had hyper-inflation back in 1989. I remember that times although I was just a kid. I remember the looting, I remember how you had to go and change your "Australes" for Dollars as soon as you cashed your check (and you had to do so with the "Arbolitos" [Little trees], guys standing on every street with the green leafs -dollars- hanging out of their pockets, since buying dollars was made illegal at that time).
The symptoms I witness today look familiar; many SMBs don't take 90 day checks already, or if they do they'll charge you higher, or else they loose money.
We'll have to sit back and see what happens. As Argentinians we are sort of getting used to surving the wild trip our economy and our useless governments provide to us. We adapt fast, forget fast and live the day.
One of this days I'm going to try and write about how I think this sort of "training" makes a lot of Argentinians very flexible workers.
So... e-commerce grew 100% during 2006, in case your math is not that great, it means it doubled in one year. Studies before 2006 estimated a growth of 20-40%.
A couple of weeks ago, another article, also at La Nacion, stated that broadband internet connections had grown 66% over the same period.
Over 9 million people use the internet to search for products, and although only 60% of those searches end up in an online purchase it is still an impressive figure.
For 2007 a 40% growth is expected, again, which probably means it'll be higher...
Now, I'll end my post here... Some food for thought, right?