Argentina: High inflation pushes poverty rate higher

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina –

One of the world’s highest inflation rates is making it harder to make a living in Argentina, where at the end of last year nearly four in 10 were poor, official figures revealed today. Thursday.

Argentina’s national statistics agency INDEC said the poverty rate rose to 39.2% of the population in the second half of 2022, up 3 percentage points from the first six months of the year. Among children under the age of 15, the poverty rate increased by more than 3 percentage points to 54.2%.

In a poor neighborhood in Argentina’s capital, the people who run a soup kitchen don’t need statistics to tell them what they’ve seen amid an economy ravaged by inflation reaching 94, 8% last year.

“Poverty is more than before,” says Graciela Gamarra, who runs a soup kitchen in the Fraga district, which distributes more than 800 servings of food every weekday afternoon.

“After the pandemic, things got worse,” she said. “Most have precarious jobs, they don’t have a fixed job to say they’re sure of how much they’ll make each month.”

Rosa Guerrera, 76, was one of those who went to the soup kitchen with her plastic container for food one recent afternoon.

“If I didn’t have a soup kitchen, what would I do?” Guerrera said, noting that a lot of people have come from outside the neighborhood begging for food lately.

Experts say inflation has hit low-middle-class families hard due to higher food prices relative to other commodities.

“If the inflation problem is not solved, it will be difficult to restore purchasing power and reduce poverty levels,” said Eduardo Donza, a researcher at the Social Debt Observatory at the Catholic University of Argentina.

However, even if inflation magically disappears, “it won’t be enough, because the level of poverty is related to a very precarious job market,” added Donza.

The percentage of Argentina’s population considered poor – those whose income is not even enough to cover basic, minimal food needs – fell slightly to 8.1% from 8.8%.

Donza estimates that the decline is largely due to welfare programs, without which the poverty rate would be around 18%.

Government efforts to cool inflation have been made even more difficult by a devastating drought that has raised costs further. The annual rate of inflation rose above 100 percent in February.

Although the poverty rate has dropped slightly from 42% in the second half of 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will no doubt be one of the key issues in the presidential campaign ahead of the election. elected in October. President Alberto Fernandez has yet to say whether he will run for re-election.

Members of the opposition were quick to criticize the government when the latest poverty figures were released.

“Over 18 million Argentinians are poor,” former Buenos Aires Governor Maria Eugenia Vidal wrote on Twitter. “And you know what the worst part is? This information is out of date. The situation in 2023 will be even more dire.”

Currently, many Argentinians do not have much faith that things can improve, even with new leadership.

“All politicians promise, promise, and once they’re there, they don’t see you, they don’t listen to you,” Gamarra said at the soup kitchen. “Most people here think so – just promises they don’t keep.”

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