It’s often been said that Argentina would have been one of the world’s richest nations was it not for its history of appalling politicians. In the post-war years the rot started with Peron and they’ve arguably got worse ever since.
I was there in 1973 when sans the now deceased Eva, Peron made his return from exile. There was craziness everywhere with a farcical second coming fervour and Buenos Aires’ many lovely buildings all vandalised by the pro-Peron symbol, from memory involving a V.
In those pre-mass tourist days foreigners were conspicuous, thus one day I ended up as a guest at the Peron headquarters. From that episode I have a large “Eva Lives” poster as the Peronists traded on her romanticised image. We had our equivalent embarrassing Eva irrationality with Jacindamania, now rightly recognized for the absurdity it was. But all of that aside, among Argentine’s many subsequent Peron government blunders, one of the worst was fixing the currency to the US dollar in the 1990s.
I had a $100 bet with the then Argentine ambassador in Wellington it wouldn’t last until the end of the century, which it didn’t and he duly paid up. Now the silly buggers are at it again and are proposing a joint currency with Brazil. It’s sheer madness forfeiting the merits of a free floating exchange rate. Instituting a floating exchange rate was a key economic policy reform advanced by The New Zealand Party in the 1984 election. It was no easy task convincing people that our century old history of restraint on foreign currency access would disappear through a simple declaration. However, that’s exactly what happened in March, 1985.
Commenting on the Argentine-Brazil proposed currency merger the Economist predicted an ultimate bail-out by Brazil, exactly as has been the case with the Euro and the southern weaker economies such as Greece, etc. It will continue until such time as the Euro is confined to the equivalent economic strength northern European nations.
That said, like many I have a soft spot for Argentina, not the least when once at death’s door, trapped high in the Andes on the Chilean side, I was rescued by some Argentine army’s strapping soldiers emerging through a blizzard who took me across into Argentina to convalesce. I’ve been back many times since and it’s always a joy.
For some years now New Zealand has freely admitted Argentine graduates. Their major contribution, at least with the girls, is a huge elevation in the standard of our females beauty. But that aside the big lesson for New Zealand is the unnecessary damage bad governments can inflict on a nation, as is occurring here now on so many fronts.
Argentinian women’s other contribution is talent. Indeed, my experience of South Americans in general is that they are terrific, hard-working, talented people.
Sadly Argentina shares something else with us today. Crime is through the roof. A client of mine almost moved there in the 90’s – he and his father and brothers were going to buy farms there. They choose not to in the end but he regularly returns to see friends. He returned last week talking of families now paying armed guards 24/7. The day he left the neighbour of the family he had stayed with was shot and killed. It’ll only escalate when their money’s worthless.
Similar financial result for Nigeria, with huge oil resources second only to the Middle East. Corruption on a major scale has made it a poor country for 99.9% of the population.