13 October 2006

Friday the 13th

Tough day, today! (and half of it still awaits). On the personal side, I'm getting work done -- too much work and too little sleep, but for extra $$$ for the summer vacations I'm still willing to carry on. The main victims of my bloated schedule (besides sleep) are concentration in my Japanese classes, my photo hobby, and this blog.

Outside that, things are hard as well around. First of all, the weather is wet and hot. The only telltale sign that it's spring and not summer is that you can still sleep at night with merely a fan or even without one, if your room is well insulated and you're not into pajamas. Second, the shortage: there's little gasoil (that's fuel oil, more precisely diesel) because the companies that sell it are not producing enough and are selling much of it abroad for a better price. To make matters worse, the oil station employees are on strike, complaining about low profits.

The government froze the prices of fuel in 2003, when the oil companies suggested that they wanted to charge international (U.S. dollar) prices for it after the peso depreciated (in effect, they wanted to triple the price). Gasoil feeds public transportation which most people rely on, but also agricultural machinery, and agriculture exports feed the countryside -- and the government, through export taxes. Buses, which run on diesel, are already heavily subsidized. The government has unearthed a 1974 "law of supply" that says that companies supplying essential products can be forced to provide it at reasonable prices, even it means a net loss for them. Quite logically the oil producers are not too happy. They almost didn't invest in surveying for new sources of oil in years, since the local price was too low, and now we're running out.

So the government is engaged in a juggling act: the farmers need cheap diesel to keep increasing their yields, which translates into fresh foreign currency, part of which goes to the government; the oil guys want pricey fuel to be able to get profit and invest in scouting; we the people want cheap fuel, to avoid having to ride a bicycle to work, but we also need fuel, whether expensive or not, to be enough for our buses. If the export taxes are lowered, the government will have less money and will have to raise our taxes to compensate, or else cut funding to welfare and public works, which keep some of us alive and some of us safe from being eaten alive by starving masses.

Now you could come up with a lot of reasons based on the above on how that's why state intervention in the economy is undesirable. That may be true, though of course, left to the market forces, half of 38 million Argentinians would be eating from the trash, if it all. With the government in charge, only 15% or so are eating from the trash on a regular basis. Wonderful, huh?

Third (because I was counting, remember?): the teachers in Santa Fe are also on strike. I don't know what's worse, if the unscrupulous use of our children's education as pretext for a salary raise by people who only work 9 months a year and 4 hours a day for a full-time average wage and go on strike every year when classes begin, or the awesome (as in awe-inducing) incompetence of the Education Ministry, whose head is a blabbering invertebrate who already granted the teachers a large raise this year and whose only reaction to this strike is protesting that it is "untimely and unjust".

Fourth (and last for today): dictator Reynaldo Bignone (the one who asked the young of today to finish what they --the dictatorship-- started) gets a special pension of almost 15,000 pesos per month, on the basis of being an ex-president. Never mind nobody elected him...

1 comment:

  1. Wow, isn't it all a bit too screwed up; while no country is perfect, this one beats many hands down.

    I love reading your blog; it is cuts above those blabbering "visit Argentina, it is great, we are cool" one-sided fluff.

    I wish all those portenas living a cushy lifestyle (sadly it seems they form the majority of my local and hostile readership)would wake up from their Recoleta/Palermo Hollywood bubble and face their country warts and all.

    Keep up the good work. Thank you for sharing your insights.


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