Sunday, March 02, 2003

The New York Times reports on the present destitution of Argentina. A few years ago, the country had the highest per capita income in Latin America. Now, doctors are treating children with kwashiorkor, a nutritional deficiency syndrome. Other kids have it worse --- they're literally starving to death.

Turn over another leaf, and you get another anecdote. Desperate people literally tearing the country apart to sell it for scrap:

With Argentina in the fifth year of a devastating recession, anything that glitters is gold for thieves: bronze busts, commemorative plaques, statues of the famous, door knockers.

No metal object is safe: 1,200 manhole covers, 20 traffic lights and 10,000 electric meters disappeared last year in Buenos Aires.

And then there's this:

... on a May morning that happened to be her 59th birthday, Norma Albino stepped into her bank branch in San Isidro, a Buenos Aires suburb of cobblestone streets, famous for its affluence and the tall spires of its 100-year-old church. She asked -- for the third or fourth time since December -- for her family's money. When the teller told her that he couldn't help her, she blurted out: "I'm going to kill myself."

As horrified bank employees looked on, she poured a bottle of rubbing alcohol over her head and snapped at a cigarette lighter.

Albino became, at that instant, a symbol of the rage and hurt smouldering inside millions of Argentines. Rushed to a hospital, she survived with third-degree burns. Months later, she has found that the best therapy is simply to forget.

That last story gives an account of how it happened --- radical IMF-inspired reform pushed hard, in fact to the point where the IMF itself, albeit by its own account, was pushing the country to ease off. But as Emma from Late Night Thoughts points out, even during the '90s, when "reform" was supposedly working well, there was smoke in the air and the glint off strangely placed mirrors for those with eyes to see it:

In 1993, as part of its deal with the World Bank, Argentina was forced to privatize its water and sewage utility. The government granted the concession to Aguas Argentina, a consortium founded by two French companies, Vivendi and Suez. The consortium promised to reduce water rates and to improve and expand water and sewage services. In order to make the move popular, the Argentinian government drove the price of water up 54% before the contract was signed, allowing the company to roll back the increases and appear as saviors to the population.

If the IMF had the courage of their convictions, the whole exercise would have been pointless; if private industry could do a better job, there's no need to go out of your way to make the public utilities look bad. What does it say about the institution that they signed onto this fakery in the first place?

It's interesting how quickly a bunch of ideologues who are unwilling to let facts get in the way of a good theory can ruin a country...

Edit note --- last bit added late


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home