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OP-ED | 01-08-2022 14:40

Blind eyes of a storm

At least two natural phenomena – sandstorms taking the form of a vertical twister spiral and the eye of the storm, that island of calm in the midst of a hurricane or typhoon – unfold atypically in a relatively small area and perhaps Argentina today has something of both.

At least two natural phenomena – sandstorms taking the form of a vertical twister spiral and the eye of the storm, that island of calm in the midst of a hurricane or typhoon – unfold atypically in a relatively small area and perhaps Argentina today has something of both. There was too much dust in the air at the time this editorial was written to escape writing in sand when attempting any conclusions about future government personnel or policies (or perhaps already current by the time this newspaper reaches the breakfast table?) so it might be worth trying to look beyond the immediate.


Various pundits insist that this latest crisis is fundamentally political even if so many of its symptoms are economic and they might well be right. One consequence of political polarisation is that both sides insist on projecting either the twister or the eye of the storm beyond their limits to the entire spectrum. The proverbial glass might be half-full for the optimist and half-empty for the pessimist but in practice it is almost impossible to pour the water with such mathematical exactitude and even more impossible to find anybody who can look at both halves with a balanced perspective.


The first step towards solving a problem is to recognise it and such recognition might not always be automatic in government circles. Silvina Batakis might or might not be Economy minister by the time this editorial is read but what remains certain is that when she returned from Washington early on Thursday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was still projecting 2022 economic growth of four percent for Argentina with such projections in full retreat worldwide, starting with China which might be lucky to reach four percent – and the growth rate is widely seen as the bottom line. We are now in the middle of winter holidays with various provinces breaking all-time records for tourism. A Harold Macmillan might now be telling Argentines: “You never had it so good” but as it is, even with picket protests out in force, many in government might well be asking: What crisis beyond media hysteria and mindless panic (and their own dysfunctional coalition, they might think rather than say)?


Even climate change is smiling on the government, another eye in the storm – while scorching summers in the two main countries of this newspaper’s language, the United States and Britain, among other places are convincing more people than ever that the dangers of global warming are for real, a relatively mild winter here is blunting the impact of higher energy imports which might otherwise be sending both trade and budget balance out of control while making the vacations a resounding success with an unusual mix of sun and snow in just the right places.


Yet even accepting that it is the twister crisis which is the isolated phenomenon here and not the eye of the storm, it should be noted that sandstorms occur in a desert while hurricanes are not the only spiral – inflation can also take on that momentum. The success of winter vacations is one symptom of currency collapse, as is the current consumer-led growth in general, with savings and investment being sacrificed for a consumer spree whose limits will be tested when it comes time to finance presence at the World Cup in Qatar – not to mention longer-term needs such as housing or a new car.


But it is also necessary to look beyond the twister or the eye of the storm to the wider world. If comparisons are odious, consumer confidence and Federal Reserve interest rates are in inverse proportion in the United States but the consequences of the latter could be dire for Argentina and other emerging markets, we have already referred to stuttering growth in China while Britain is currently leaderless but with a comfortable parliamentary majority and a functioning civil service – the opposite of Argentina, it might be said. Given the impossibility of any solid conclusion amid the current flux, it can only be said in closing that things are looking more relative than ever.

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