High Inflation Forces Hard Choices on Argentines

    16 August 2022

    Argentina reported a monthly inflation rate of 7.4 percent in the month of July, the highest number in about 20 years.

    The country's consumer prices have increased 71 percent over the past year, the national statistics agency, called INDEC, said recently.

    The latest numbers put Argentina among the countries with the highest inflation rates in the world.

    A vendor sits surrounded by her secondhand garments at a market near Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
    A vendor sits surrounded by her secondhand garments at a market near Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

    The effects of inflation are clear in Villa Fiorito, around 15 kilometers from downtown Buenos Aires. There, unemployed women gather in the hopes of exchanging goods for food. Such exchanges that do not involve money are known as bartering.

    Every afternoon, women set up their blankets and lay out their goods, including clothes and toys. Their hope is to exchange the goods for food to feed their families.

    The economic problems are likely to get worse before they get better in Argentina. Experts predict that inflation for the whole year will likely reach 90 percent or higher.

    Thirty-one-year-old Soledad Bustos sets up shop in the Villa Fiorito fair every afternoon while one of her children is in school and another is under the care of her sister.

    The money is not enough

    Bustos offers clothing like jeans, leather boots, sneakers and shirts that she either took out of her own home or bought through the social media service Facebook. In exchange, she asks for powdered milk.

    "I can't get to the end of the month, the money isn't enough," Bustos, a single mother, said.

    Bustos is unemployed and says she receives around $255 a month from the state. That amount is not enough to feed her family.

    Bartering events started spreading in Argentina after the economy collapsed in 2001. But such events have increased in recent years as the inflation rate has remained high.

    "This is living hand-to-mouth," said María Inés Pereyra, 48, the organizer of the event that runs Mondays through Saturdays. "Whatever they obtain today they take it straight to the dining table."

    For safety reasons, only women can take part in bartering. Most of the exchanges have already been previously arranged on Facebook or WhatsApp.

    Although there is no set value for the used goods, Pereyra set a top price of $2 for each piece of clothing.

    As an example, she pointed to a pair of leather sneakers that could be traded for a packet of sugar, cooking oil, flour and a local tea.

    Fernández's administration has blamed the high inflation rate in July on a currency crisis caused by "speculative movements that tried to generate a crisis of uncertainty and push a devaluation," Gabriela Cerruti, the government's spokeswoman, said recently.

    Cerruti's statement came before the inflation rate was released.

    The increase of the country's already high inflation rate comes shortly after the government had three economy ministers within one month.

    Experts and members of Fernández's administration expect the August inflation rate to be similar to July. That is because of increases in prices for public transport and energy.

    In Villa Fiorito, Bustos said she and her fellow barterers are centering their efforts on "surviving."

    I'm Jill Robbins.

    Debora Rey reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    consumer – n. a person who buys goods and services

    blanket –n. a covering made of cloth that is used especially on a bed to keep you warm

    fair – n. an event at which different things (such as crafts or food) are sold or traded

    obtain – v. to gain or get (something) usually by effort

    speculative – adj. involving financial risk : of or relating to financial activity that could result in either a large profit or a large loss

    generate – v. to produce (something) or cause (something) to be produced

    devaluation –n. (finance) the act of lowering the value of a country's money so that it is worth