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World News

High inflation pushes poverty rate even higher in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina — One of the world’s highest inflation rates is making it harder to make ends meet in Argentina, where at the end of last year nearly four in ten people were poor, official figures showed on Thursday.

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

In a poor neighborhood of the Argentine capital, those who run a soup kitchen don’t need the statistics to know what they’ve seen in an economy ravaged by inflation that hit 94.8% last year.

“There is more poverty than before,” said Graciela Gamarra, who runs the neighborhood soup kitchen in Fraga, which distributes more than 800 servings of food every weekday afternoon.

“After the pandemic, everything got worse,” she said. “Most have precarious jobs, they don’t have a fixed job to say they are sure how much they will earn each month.”

Rosa Guerrera, 76, was one of the people who went to the soup kitchen with her plastic container to get food on a recent afternoon.

“If there was no soup kitchen, what would become of me?” Guerrera said, noting that more people from outside the neighborhood had arrived recently asking for food.

Experts say inflation has hit lower-middle-class families particularly hard, as the price of food has risen more than other items.

“If the inflationary issue is not resolved, it will be very difficult to recover purchasing power and bring down the level of poverty,” said Eduardo Donza, researcher at the University’s Social Debt Observatory. Argentinian Catholic.

Even if inflation were to magically disappear, “it would not be enough, because the level of poverty is associated with a very precarious labor market,” Donza added.

The percentage of Argentina’s population considered destitute – those whose income does not cover even basic and minimal food needs – fell slightly from 8.8% to 8.1%.

The decline is largely due to social assistance programs, without which the deprivation rate would be around 18%, Donza estimated.

The government’s efforts to calm inflation were made even more difficult by a devastating drought which further increased costs. The annual inflation rate exceeded 100% in February.

Although the poverty rate fell slightly from 42% in the second half of 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will undoubtedly be one of the main issues in the presidential campaign ahead of the October elections. President Alberto Fernández has still not said whether he will run again.

Opposition MPs were quick to criticize the government when the latest poverty figures came out.

“More than 18 million Argentines are poor,” former Buenos Aires governor María Eugenia Vidal wrote on Twitter. “And you know what is the worst? This information is already outdated. The situation in 2023 is even more serious.

For now, many Argentines don’t really believe things could get better, 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 told the soup kitchen. “Most people here think the same way – just promises they don’t keep.”

ABC News

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