Argentina's saddest tango involves their current economy
If you love tango, and I do, you know that the lyrics are always about heartbreak and disillusionment. I'm sure that there is a happy tango out there, but the ones I'm familiar with are always sad songs. As my friend from Buenos Aires told me yesterday, the inflation is one sad tango playing 24/7.
Let's check what's happening down there:
In times like these in Argentina, prices are one thing you cannot guarantee.
Ask Diego Barrera and Claudio Cayeta, who own a small aluminum and glass shop in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Palermo. The business partners spent two weeks last month navigating a virtual paralysis because of the volatile economic situation gripping the country, unable to source the material they needed, and as a result unable to quote prices to their customers.
"Our providers won't give us anything because the [United States] dollar goes up every day, so they don't want to lose money," said Barrera, 43, whose stock has dwindled as the uncertainty around them climbs.
"I understand because the same thing happens to me," he said. "I've already lost money on the prices that I quoted some of my customers."
This reality has become alarmingly common in Argentina, with its economy unravelling at an accelerating rate. The rising value of the US dollar is actually a measure of the plummeting value of the Argentinian peso, which sank by as much as 25 percent on the black market over the month of April. On April 25 it hit a record low, grazing 500 pesos for one US dollar at the unofficial rate, the one that is most often used as a benchmark for average Argentinians because currency controls limit how much they can buy at the official exchange rate.
It's hard for us up here to imagine living like that. Imagine your dollar bill sinking 25% in one month. Imagine your food prices jumping 10% compared to March or vegetables 15% or eggs 25%. Businesses can't buy raw materials because the currency is worthless. Bartering is back in style, and payday brings little to celebrate about.
To make matters worse, the current left-of-center government has no clue how to fix the problem. Does that sound Bidenesque? They write "anti-inflation" laws, but it does nothing because government is the problem in Argentina.
Finally, I asked my friend from Buenos Aires if he was optimistic about the future. He said no, but then there is always a tango to share a glass of wine over. Sort of like a Hank Williams–inspired tango about a tear in my beer!
PS: Check out my blog for posts, podcasts, and videos.