The big question now is whether the new Argentinian president, Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, will have a grace period to sort out the country’s problems. She has inherited a country that has pulled back from a crisis but is still fragile. In 2001, Argentinians had two presidents in 10 days and the country’s economy collapsed.
The country defaulted on its foreign debt, people were not allowed to withdraw their savings from banks and many businesses failed. Nestor Kirchner came into office in May in 2003, breaking with the neo-liberal politics of the 80s vowing to carry out economic reform.
With his wife by his side, he declared war on high unemployment and low growth. The economy is now growing at the rate of about eight percent per year, although it is predicted it will be down next year. Inroads have also been made into unemployment and poverty, peeled back from what it was after the crisis five years ago.
The figures are still high, however, something the new president will have to address. What is more worrying is the rate of inflation. The official statistics department puts the rate at nine percent; independent assessments put it between 15 and 20 percent.
For many Argentinians it seems to be a case of “once stung, twice shy” when it comes to official statements about the economy. Among the general population, while there is economic growth, it is high prices they are concerned about. “Way too expensive,” says one woman in a market. “It’s terrible, the tomatoes, expensive, expensive.” “The truth is we can’t stand it anymore,” says another woman. “It gets worse and worse. The economy is terrible and I think we have bad days ahead.”
Argentina also suffers from the poor state of its infrastructure. Experts say there is an urgent need for a boost in investment – and for that Cristina Fernandez will have to go on a global charm offensive.