Economic Instability, Environmental Unsustainability, and Domestic Violence
By Anoush Avakian
Argentina is a culturally rich country with an extremely educated population and abundant natural resources. However, the country is still drastically facing economic instability, domestic violence towards women, and environmental issues concerning sustainability.
Argentina has suffered through a century of economic booms and busts, and fifteen years ago it seemed to be heading toward the bust again. The peso had lost nearly 20 percent of its value in 2014, which led to Argentines seeking desperately to convert their salaries and savings into paper currency.[i] This was triggered by the events of 2002 that took place during the biggest economic crisis for Argentina in the century – with a public debt reaching a percentage of GDP at 166%, and unemployment rate at 21%. “In 2002, millions of Argentines saw their incomes and living standards collapse amid a crisis that included a government default on international debts and 41% inflation” (Walker, 2014). To follow up with the 2002 crisis, Argentina’s president from 2007, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had imposed several policies which did not help with the ongoing economic problems. Some policies included keeping the utility rates frozen – which lead to power outages, nationalized the country’s largest oil company – which made Argentina a net importer of energy even though they already had huge reserves of oil and gas, and finally looked after the official figures correlated with inflation, and threatened journalists who reported the real numbers.
Argentina has been kept from global credit markets since it defaulted on its debt during the 2001-2002 financial crisis. Officials have been trying to keep money for the central bank to use to pay of the government debt, however the bank’s reserves had continued to drop. The same mistakes are being continued, which were the cause of previous economic downfalls, such as uncontrolled government spending, heavy taxes on exports, strict control on imports, and a discouragement to foreign investors wanting to have trade relations with the country. “Argentina has moved away from market oriented policies with imports substitution protectionist measures; national control over natural resources; a more predominant role for state companies and banks and discouraging foreign investments and the influx of capital” (Roubini 2012). These policies have impacted investors and consumers’ confidence, influencing the growth of the economy. Having this form of state capitalism has made the country more vulnerable to any domestic or international chaos.[ii] Additionally, these currency controls have made it almost impossible for Argentines to legally trade pesos for dollars, which led them turn to the black market to obtain dollars to protect themselves from one of the highest inflation rates in the world. [iii] In fact in 2014, Argentina’s reserves of hard currency dropped by 30%, making the peso increasingly unaffordable. [iv] Sadly, the underlying economy’s problems were not addressed, and the main focus for that the government had was to avoid immediate default.
With a new presidency in 2030, measures could be taken to set the stage for a future recovery. Such measures can include coming to terms with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Paris Club of government debt-holders, freeing utility rates and limiting spending. Although the Argentine state had been shut out from international capital markets since its 2001 default, it is currently financing infrastructure and energy projects, and trying to prevent its foreign currency reserves from being totally drained.[v]
[i] "Argentina's crisis." Washington Post 31 Jan. 2014. Global Issues In Context. Web. 7 June 2015.
[ii] Lopez, L. (2012, November 26). How Argentina Got To Be Such An Economic Basket Case. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
[iii] Argentina Accuses HSBC of Aiding People in Tax Evasion. (2014, November 27). Retrieved June 11, 2015.
[iv] Walker, A. (2014, January 24). Argentina to ease foreign exchange controls after peso slump - BBC News. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
[v] Dolph, C. (2014, November 18). What Argentina's Sovereign Debt Dispute Means for Global Finance. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
In 2015, domestic violence was a drastic issue, where hundreds of women were killed each year. The term ‘femicide’ is used to describe this form of domestic violence, as it is a gender hate-crime term describing the violent and deliberate killing of a woman.[i] In a conference to end all forms of violence against women, speakers claimed that ‘femicide’ kills one woman every 30 hours on average in Argentina. All these forms of violence perpetrated against women include femicide, sexual violence, discrimination at work and schools, feminization of poverty, and the impossibility of abortion in a legal, safe and free of cost manner.[ii]
Reports showed that 60 percent of official complaints of abuse at work are made by women, and 80 percent of these reports are made for psychological abuse, 10 per cent for physical abuse, and 8 percent for sexual harassment. Among these complaints, nearly 92 percent of workplace complaints are made by people whose work has some or all their activities performed without official healthcare provisions or other obligatory benefits.[iii] Although Argentina adopted a law in 2012 establishing harsh punishments for femicide perpetrators, campaigners did not believe it to be enough. Even though there have been improvements with the reduction of domestic violence since 2015, there are changes that need to be implemented. Protest organizers in 2015 demanded for a comprehensive sex education, protection for victims of violent crimes and access to free legal representation. “More than 1,800 women died between 2008 and 2014 in episodes of domestic violence, according to La Casa del Encuentro, a local women’s rights group (Gilbert, 2015).”
In 2015, with over 200,000 people participating in protests against femicide and domestic violence directed towards women, it is clear that it continues to be a growing issue 15 years later. “The main problem with the current policies in many countries of Latin America is that there are sometimes very good laws, but its implementation is difficult (Castro, 2015).” Argentina needs to find better ways to implement their policies and laws against domestic violence in the coming years in order to tackle the problem.
[i] "Mass protest in Buenos Aires over domestic violence, 'femicide'." UPI NewsTrack 4 June 2015. Global Issues In Context. Web. 14 June 2015.
[ii] "Thousands of women denounce 'femicide' violence in Argentina." EFE World News Service 13 Oct. 2014. Global Issues In Context. Web. 14 June 2015.
[iii] "Women make 60 percent of workplace official complaints." Xinhua News Agency 24 Dec. 2007. Global Issues In Context. Web. 14 June 2015.
Human activities, especially pollution and deforestation, are the main threats to Argentina’s biodiversity and landscapes, causing global biodiversity declines. In 1914, Argentina had approximately 105 million hectares of forest, whereas now it has declined to 28 to 45 million hectares. From the years 1980 to 2000, deforestation accounted for the loss of more than 16 million hectares.[i] Due to the agricultural expansion of soybean, one of the world’s largest forested biomes, the Yungas and the Chaco ecoregion, are threatened by deforestation. In fact, in the first three months of 2015 alone, 3,000 hectares of land were lost to deforestation, half of what was wrecked throughout all of 2014.[ii] Strategies were proposed by the government but never adopted or implemented, and yet there is no law protecting Argentina’s rapidly decreasing forests. Experts agree that it is not the laws that are deficient in Argentina, rather it is the repeated failure to enforce these laws. With the economic crisis from 2001, the struggle to balance economic growth and environmental preservation became a major challenge. Growing public awareness about the nation’s decreasing forestry has put pressure on the government to act, in addition to raising public interest in other environmental issues. However, to create enforceable policies, research must be done and the public must be educated so that they will not accept the lack of enforcement, which has been the issue in 2015 and the previous years.
[i] Baldock, D. (n.d.). Environmental problems in Argentina. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
[ii] Latin America Green News: Colombia's melting Sierra Nevada, Nicaragua's water crisis, Argentina's alarming deforestation. (2015, June 8). Retrieved June 15, 2015.
To conclude, Argentina is a growing nation, still facing economic problems, although the government is addressing these underlying issues in the hopes of a better future. Although, domestic violence is a significant issue, female supporters who speak against femicide and other forms of domestic abuse, are at a rise, and their efforts will continue to help the nation overcome the issue. As with the environmental concerns regarding sustainability, it is best to increase the awareness of the depleting forests in Argentina so that individuals disregard the lack of enforcement by the government, if it does not begin enforcing these laws.