Argentina’s Economic Collapse (110 min)

July 15th, 20102:02 am @

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The Argentine economic crisis reflects very closely what is happening here in the United States of America which means we can use it’s lessons to predict what may happen here in the USA.

It was a financial situation that affected Argentina’s economy during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Macroeconomically speaking, the critical period started with the decrease of real GDP in 1999 and ended in 2002 with the return to GDP growth, but the origins of the collapse of Argentina’s economy, and their effects on the population, can be found in action before.

Argentina quickly lost the confidence of investors and the flight of money away from the country increased. In 2001, people fearing the worst began withdrawing large sums of money from their bank accounts, turning pesos into dollars and sending them abroad, causing a run on the banks. The government then enacted a set of measures (informally known as the corralito) that effectively froze all bank accounts for twelve months, allowing for only minor sums of cash to be withdrawn.

Because of this allowance limit and the serious problems it caused in certain cases, many Argentines became enraged and took to the streets of important cities, especially Buenos Aires. They engaged in a form of popular protest that became known as cacerolazo (banging pots and pans). These protests occurred especially in 2001 and 2002. At first the cacerolazos were simply noisy demonstrations, but soon they included property destruction, often directed at banks, foreign privatized companies, and especially big American and European companies. Many businesses installed metal barriers because windows and glass facades were being broken, and even fires being ignited at their doors. Billboards of such companies as Coca Cola and others were brought down by the masses of demonstrators.

Confrontations between the police and citizens became a common sight, and fires were also set on Buenos Aires avenues. Fernando de la Rúa declared a state of emergency but this only worsened the situation, precipitating the violent protests of 20 and 21 December 2001 in Plaza de Mayo, where demonstrators clashed with the police, ended with several dead, and precipitated the fall of the government. De la Rúa eventually fled the Casa Rosada in a helicopter on 21 December.

Amid rioting, President Fernando de la Rua resigns, December 21, 2001.

Since De la Rúa’s vice president, Carlos Álvarez, had resigned in October 2000, a political crisis ensued. Following presidential succession procedures established in the Constitution, the president of the Senate Ramón Puerta took office and the Legislative Assembly (a body formed by merging both chambers of the Congress) was convened. By law, the candidates were the members of the Senate plus the Governors of the Provinces; they finally appointed Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, then governor of San Luis. During the last week of 2001, the interim government led by Rodríguez Saá, facing the impossibility of meeting debt payments, defaulted on the larger part of the public debt, totalling no less than $132 billion.

Politically, the most heated debate involved the time for the following elections—the spectrum ranged from March 2002 to October 2003 (the original date for the ending of De la Rúa’s office).

Rodríguez Saá’s economy team came up with a project designed to preserve the convertibility regime, dubbed the “Third Currency” Plan. It consisted of creating a new, non-convertible currency called Argentino coexisting with convertible pesos and U.S. dollars. It would only circulate as cash (checks, promissory notes or other instruments could be nominated in pesos or dollars but not in Argentinos) and would be partially guaranteed with federally-managed land—such features were expected to counterbalance inflationary tendencies.

Argentinos having legal currency status would be used to redeem all complementary currency already in circulation—the acceptance of which as a means of payment was quite uneven. It was hoped that preservation of convertibility would restore public confidence, while the non-convertible nature of this currency would allow for a measure of fiscal flexibility (unthinkable with pesos) that could ameliorate the crippling recession of economy. Critics called this plan merely a “controlled devaluation”; its advocates countered that since controlling a devaluation is perhaps its thorniest issue, this criticism was a praise in disguise. The “Third Currency” plan had enthusiastic supporters among mainstream economists (the most notorious being perhaps Martín Redrado, current president of the central bank) citing sound technical arguments. However, it could never be implemented because the Rodríguez Saá government lacked the political support required.

Rodríguez Saá, utterly incapable of dealing with the crisis and unsupported by his own party, resigned before the end of the year. The Legislative Assembly convened again, appointing Peronist Eduardo Duhalde—then a Senator for the Buenos Aires province—to take his place.

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