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The economic boom that ran until 2011 has officially ended in Argentina. While the rapid growth is largely thought to have been the result of Chinese purchase of grain exports, the Argentine government saw it as a vindication of their expansionary policies and welfare state ambitions. The country's GDP growth rate is expected to slow down to 2.2% in 2012, from the 8.9% last year (Oppenheimer, 2012). Chinese grain purchases remain high and commodity prices are high as well, leaving the political situation as the main culprit for the growth problem and the high (25%) inflation rate. Public spending continues to increase -- sometimes financed by the central bank and even from the Social Security System (Ibid).
Argentina's major industries remain in agriculture and manufacturing. Brazil is the major export market, and its economy is tied to Chinese demand, so a lot of Argentina's potential is tied to China. The country is a net fuel importer as well (CIA World Factbook, 2012). The strength in these industries remains, and that is the only reason the country has not already descended into economic chaos. Agricultural subsidies are ensuring the international competitiveness of grain, but put the country at risk is subsidies decline (Oppenheimer, 2012).
Also of note is the lack of tangible economic development policies. Argentina's profligate spending has not resulted in a better education system, development of a viable post-industrial economy or any serious foreign direct investment. Political maneuvers designed to provide short-term increases in popularity are not winning the country any friends overseas, so ultimately Argentina is suffering an economic and political failing of its own making.
Fernandez de Kirchner is in her final term, unless she amends the Constitution. The next Presidential election is scheduled for 2015, which is a long time for the situation in Argentina to change. However, there are legislative elections scheduled for 2013 as well, and these will be a test for the sitting government, to hold onto its power in the legislative branch (Oppenheimer, 2012). It is unknown at this point what approach Fernandez de Kirchner will take with respect to her own future, but that might depend on the outcome of the 2013 elections.
Overall, Argentina is at serious risk. Unless there is a global commodities bubble, it is expected that Argentina could have another devaluation of its currency. The state's denial of the inflation situation is not helping the inflation situation. Another issue is the health of the country's debt, as any currency collapse of pesification of the debt would undermine the country's already shaky standing in global financial markets. All signs today point to the potential of economic disaster in 2013. If the government prints money to try to buy popularity for the 2013 elections, or wants to escalate tensions with Western nations further, its economic future in the short-term is in serious doubt.
The markets do not have much faith in Argentina. In particular, the YPF and debt problems, combined with governmental intransigence with respect to solving these issues, has led to a diminished confidence in the Argentine market. The market value of publicly-traded shares was $63.91 billion at the end of 2010, but dropped to $43.58 billion by the end of 2011, a decline of 31.8% (CIA World Factbook, 2012). The MERVAL is down around 150 points for the year, hinting at a further deterioration of the market cap of Argentine stocks (Bloomberg, 2012). Market response to the economic situation in Argentina is not surprising. The YFP incident shook market confidence, but it seems that most of the problems in 2012 were priced into the market by the end of 2011. The market is not pricing in any recovery however. The only positive takeaway is that the market is not pricing in a collapse as well.
Argentina's potential remains. Good governance will allow the country to leverage is agricultural and commodity wealth. It is not impossible to restore the faith on foreign investors, either. However, this is not the direction in which Argentina is traveling. The current government looks to be in place for several more years, which likely means a continuation of the same policies, at least until there is a major economic catastrophe. Government unwillingness to deal with inflation is a particular concern that could contribute to the economic downfall of the country. Argentina is not a good place in which to invest at present, and both external investors and internal investors as well know this.
Bloomberg. (2012) Interactive chart for Buenos Aires Stock Exchange MERVAL index. Bloomberg. Retrieved November 15, 2012 from http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/MERVAL:IND/chart/
Bronstein, H. (2012). Argentine leader's image falls as inflation soars. Reuters. Retrieved November 15, 2012 from http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/26/us-argentina-fernandez-poll-idUSBRE87P07620120826
CIA World Factbook (2012) Argentina. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved November 15, 2012 fromhttps://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ar.html
Gilbert, J. (2012). Cristina Kirchner using Falkland Islands as a smokescreen to hide failing economy. The Telegraph. Retrieved November 15, 2012 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/argentina/9592424/Cristina-Kirchner-using-Falkland-Islands-as-a-smokescreen-to-hide-failing-economy.html
Kerner, D. (2012) Foreign investors are getting nervous about Argentina -- again. Foreign Policy. Retrieved November 15, 2012 from http://eurasia.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/07/03/foreign_investors_are_getting_nervous_about_argentina_again
Oppenheimer, a. (2012). Argentina's economic fiesta is over. Miami Herald. Retrieved November 15, 2012 fromhttp://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/16/2851968/argentinas-economic-fiesta-is.html
Rastello, S. & Raszewski, E. (2012). IMF to put Argentina on path to censure over inflation data. Bloomberg Retrieved November 15, 2012 from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-18/imf-to-put-argentina-on-path-toward-censure-over-economic-data.html
US Department of State. (2012). Background note: Argentina. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved November…[continue]
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