Unprecedented inflation, declining living standards and internal political crisis—these were the realities of Argentina. Even a century ago, the deplorable state of Argentina, which was one of the richest countries in the world, and the public protests that were raging in the face of the political crisis, faded in an instant with the joy of Messi winning the World Cup. Public protest has turned into a festival.
The condition of the people of the country was not good. At times like these we needed a cheer. Messi and his army won the World Cup. The joy it gave us was much needed by the people at the moment. Yesterday (Sunday) I saw many happy people, such as never seen before. I saw people from all walks of life happy. I saw united people. There was no division, we were all brothers.
According to an analysis by Politico, Argentina faced several economic disasters in the past few decades. But in recent years it has become more dire. Inflation in the country has reached almost 100 percent this year. Gone are the savings of the middle class and erased their dreams. Those who can invest their assets in euros or dollars in the partially legal black market receive higher exchange rates than in the legal market.
The left-wing government of Argentina’s incumbent President Alberto Fernandez is trying to stabilize both the currency and the economy by restricting or taxing exports of the country’s staple agricultural products such as soy, meat and wheat. But critics say these protectionist measures are worsening economic woes.
This Latin American country famous for its football has footballers like Maradona-Messi as well as valuable natural resources. But recent unrest has left the country so dire that the number of homeless people on the streets of the capital, Buenos Aires, and elsewhere has steadily increased. Besides, the number of people who used to collect garbage for their livelihood has also increased tremendously.
A World Cup trophy won after 36 years has come as a rain of happiness amidst all the unprecedented crises. With such a victory of Messi’s army, caste, caste and political revenge are forgotten and everyone is enjoying the festival. All sorrow, misery and despair are forgotten.
“We’re used to being beaten, that’s why we know how to deal with good times and bad times,” Albéceleste mastermind and coach Lionel Scaloni said in an interview on national TV after winning the World Cup in Qatar. Being at the top is a unique thing, an incredible enjoyment.’
But you can imagine, how can the country’s 40 percent of people living below the poverty line, the lack of a mountain equal to a single trophy? There is a new political and economic crisis in it. Such a thought is not entirely unreasonable. But how do the Argentines see this victory? I spoke to an Argentine to find the answer to that question. Lorena Romero, a resident of Jose C Paz, a city about 45 kilometers from the capital Buenos Aires, said the current situation in her city.
Lorena said, ‘To live well in this country you have to be a warrior and intelligent. If you are born with nothing, you have more to lack. Because if you want to see yourself in a good position in life, you have to go through a lot of expenses. But it is not impossible to survive here. If your profession is good then it is natural that you will earn more. If you are a doctor or an engineer, your monthly earnings will be good. I have a friend who works in a good company. He earns 90,000 pesos a month and that’s enough to survive.’
But there are many people who live on state subsidies, Lorena added. Subsidizing them is part of the government’s social plan. The state pays them about 25,000 Argentine pesos. But it is very little, not enough to survive. The problem is that Argentina has one crisis after another. For example, there was a terrible crisis in 2001. Many could not handle that shock.’
After a long time, Argentina won the football world cup in a severe crisis. Responding to how this win has affected the current situation, Lorena said, ‘I think one of the reasons why this World Championship was so much needed is because of our current crisis. The condition of the people of the country was not good. At times like these we needed a cheer. Messi and his army won the World Cup. The joy it gave us was much needed by the people at the moment. Yesterday (Sunday) I saw many happy people, such as never seen before. I saw people from all walks of life happy. I saw united people. There was no difference, we are all brothers.’
Despite years of economic stagnation, political mismanagement and rampant corruption, the South American country is rich in fossil resources such as gas. In particular, the country’s ‘Dead Cow’ field in Patagonia is the world’s second largest shale gas reserve. The country also has good reserves of lithium, a key component of batteries for electric vehicles and electronics. Western leaders such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have already expressed interest in supporting Argentina in exploiting those resources.
Next year could even see the ratification of a long-delayed trade deal between the EU and the Marcosur bloc, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. Current Brazilian President Lula da Silva has promised better protections for the deal, making implementation even more likely.
On the other hand, analysts say, changes may also come at the national political level of Argentina. That’s because the country will hold general elections in October next year where the left-wing government is set to be challenged by candidates from the centre-left bloc and a new liberal party. Because they are all market friendly.
Three years after the fall of the military dictatorship in 1986, Argentine football legend Diego Maradona won the country’s second football title. More than three decades have passed since then. Despite going to the final in 2014, Messi had to return empty-handed. But this time he did not disappoint. He brought the country the third football title.
Argentinians are dreaming that this title will go a long way in solving Argentina’s ongoing political and economic crisis.
(Dhaka Times / 19 December / SAT)