Forget the Lipstick - You need to vote
En Duelo

Sticks and Stones...

Today one of my friends called me from the grocery store.  "No puedo creer." he tells me.  "No compre nada."  (I can't believe it, I bought nothing.)  He figured I was the sympathetic ear.  He went shopping and had a budget to buy groceries.  He ended up putting back several items.

A friend who had been here two years ago sent me his budget for his upcoming vacation here in October. He was allowing himself $15 a day for food.  "You got to be kidding."  I wrote him back.  "That will cover maybe 1 meal."  He was shocked.  Two years ago you could find a restaurant special for lunch - main course, drink, dessert or coffee for 12 - 15 pesos.  That same meal is now 25 - 30 pesos.  Coffee con leche with 3 medialunas was 5 pesos now it is 10 to 12.  Most entrees in restaurants are 25 to 30 pesos now.  You have to wonder where it will end.  Every time I go to one of my favorite restaurants, the prices are higher.

My friend told me he would just not eat out.  He remembered how we bought almost a counter full of fruits and vegetables for 20 pesos.  "Sorry"  I wrote him.  It is not just the restaurants that have gone up in price.  2 years ago tomatoes were 2 kilos for 3.50 pesos, this weekend they were 1 kilo for 6 pesos.  Strawberries are now a luxury.  At one time I paid 2.50 pesos for 2 kilos.  Now they are crazy.
It's a good thing I don't eat meat.

The streets of Buenos Aires are empty at night.  The rising prices are keeping people home.  It is getting too expensive for people to go out.  It used to be there were always people on the street.  Now you don't see all that many people.  Taxis have gone up twice this year.  More people are taking the bus, and many people do not want to take buses dressed up late at night.

Taxis drivers are happy for fares late at night.  "No hay mucha movida" they tell me.  The taxi from Gricel now costs 17 pesos.  2 years ago it cost 11.  I hardly take taxis anymore.  On Saturday night even Sandra needed little persuading to take the bus out to Las Glorias Argentinas.  1 peso against 35 was a no brainer.

The milongas are interesting these days.  During the week they are "muy flojo."  Not very many people. Definitely very few tourists.  Not normal for this time of year.  The milongas where the locals go on weekends are still well attended.  I understand that the tourist milongas are empty. 

Understandable.  Look at what is happening in the U.S.  The country is a mess.  The mess made by greed.  And now the government expects the taxpayer to pay for the greed and mess made by  Wall Street.  The House rejected the 700 billion dollar package.  Of which taxpayers would have gotten to pay for, but receive nothing in return.  The financial problems of the U.S. ripple throughout the world. Here our tourism is down.

In a way the milongas are like they were when I first came here.  Mostly Argentines.  Someone commented to me on Friday night that it was nice to have our milongas back.  I am sure that will change in October.  Tourists will begin to come again.  It is not always a bad thing.

I walk the streets in my barrio and I sit in cafes.  I meet some of the few tourists who are here.  They amaze me.  They complain about Buenos Aires not being cheap enough.  American tourists.  I know things are bad.  They tell me how they are afraid of losing their jobs, but the trip was planned.  They tell me how things are so unstable in the U.S.  They tell me how the U.S. dollar is not worth much these days, so that is why they came to Argentina.  It was supposed to be cheap.  They can't afford Europe.

How dare Argentina not be cheap.  Or as cheap as they thought it would be.  And they complain.  I am wondering where in the U.S. they can get a 3 course meal for $8 - 10 that is as good as the ones here. The 17 peso taxi ride from Gricel is $5 for them.  They complain.  "Please go home."  I want to tell them.  While our economy may not be perfect, we are not causing a world wide bank default.

Don't get me wrong.  I feel bad my birth country is a mess.  It must be terrible to be there now.  But don't come to my adopted country expecting to live it up and not be able to.  It used to be cheap here. While it might be cheaper than a lot of places, it is no longer that big bargain it used to be.

It's funny.  During the Argentine crisis, the U.S. government was largely critical of Argentina.  Argentines were criticized for wanting to live beyond their means.  They were criticized for not wanting to pay taxes.  They were criticized for defaulting on 142 billion dollars worth of loans.   

Here were are - flash forward.  Better be careful of what you say, because you never know when it will come back to haunt you....to the tune of $700 billon.

Comments

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jamie

I totally agree Deby, part of the blame for the US problems is the citizens living outside their means.

CB

Hi Deby,
Of course everything is so expensive now here. I live in pesos.
Global economies. Global crisis. Ups & downs. And here we are,and will be.
Efecto Tequila, efecto Vodka, efecto Jazz.
We will enjoy our glass of red wine now and then , right?

Janis Kenyon

My living expenses in BsAs for 2008 have already exceeded what I lived on for 2007. My IRA account has already taken a loss of $7,000+ this year.

I moved here before devaluation when BsAs was comparable to Chicago or NYC. Everything is changing...including the milongas. An afternoon milonga yesterday had very few dancers where the entrada is 8 pesos. Is it going to get worse?

American Girl

I read your blog regularly,and usually enjoy it. I privately cheered your urge for all Americans to go out and vote. Change is necessary to remove the current regime and help our country to get out of the mess it's in. You've lost me with your latest post, however. The tourists who come to your adopted country of Argentina are not any people I know. The middle class in the US is suffering; the poor are destitute. The only people who can think of taking vacations ANYWHERE are the wealthy. If wealthy people are complaining about the prices not being "cheap" enough in Argentina, that is a societal class issue, not a governmental issue. Perhaps in future blog posts you can separate out government from the people who live in your birth country. As I'm sure it is in Argentina, the people here in the US do not run the government, they just have to live with the consequences of poor decisions made by the government. But the US government is still my government (through good and bad), and some of us are stuck here to deal with the problems caused by greed and faulty administration. I would love to visit Argentina one day, but alas, I am not one of the wealthy complainers, so it may never happen. The most we US citizens can hope for is that the country as a whole votes for change and we experience that change. Otherwise...

Thomas Locke Hobbs

Deby,

Today there was a long article in La Nacion about how inflation this year will ONLY be 17%. Still, that's a lot lower than the 20-30% that people have been talking about. It's a direct result of the slow-down here since the spring.

I've been here 6 months and I remember in April prices were going up everywhere. That seems less the case now, altho, of course, nothing will ever be as cheap here as it was in 2005.

I suspect there will be a surge of 6-month expats as recently laid-off financial professionals decide to come spend a sabbatical here in Buenos Aires. This will pass and will be followed by a decline in tourism from the US and Europe due to the economic situation.

Argentina is, ironically, somwhat shielded from the impact of this as it does not depend that much these days on international debt markets. Still, a global slowdown will lower commodity prices and we'll see the results here in about 6-12 months.

Cristina, for all her faults, was absolutely brilliant in calling this crisis the "Effecto Jazz".

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