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Friday, April 08, 2005

Poverty in Argentina

A week or two ago, a reader asked me about information on poverty in Argentina. I apologize for not getting to the issue sooner, but yesterday I read an article on poverty in Argentina in Clarín, Argentina's largest newspaper, that the reader will find valuable. First, the comment...

Reader's Comment

Do you know anything about the poverty level in Argentina? I know things are worse since the financial crisis, but do you have any hard info or numbers?

Poverty in Argentina

There are two poverty lines in Argentina. A family of four making $772 pesos ($266 USD) per month or less, are considered poor. If that same family makes less than $354 pesos ($122 USD), they are considered indigent. Argentina uses two "baskets" of goods to define the poverty -- the Canasta Básica Total (CBT) or "Total Basic Basket" and the Canasta Básica Alimentaria or "Basic Nourishing Basket". The total basic basket accounts for things like clothing, housing, services, etc. The nourishing basket is the basic food/drink requirements for one to feed his or her family. So, in March, it cost $772 pesos to obtain all the goods/services in the total basic basket and $354 pesos to obtain the goods in the nourishing basket.

This does not tell the whole story, however. I was speaking to an Argentine colleague of mine today about this story and she told me that there was a recent documentary made in Argentina about this very subject. Similar to the movie "Supersize Me" in the US, an Argentine filmmaker spent a month eating all the goods that were actually in the nourishing basket. Instead of gaining weight, however, he dropped 13 lbs in one month, his blood pressure went haywire, and he suffered bouts with insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, and became aggressive at home.

The argument of the movie was that the government sets this nourishing basket artificially lower than the true amount needed for actual nourishment. They do this in order to diminish the number people who show up as indigents in the statistics. Clearly the items in the nourishing basket are not sufficiently nourishing.

The CIA World Factbook reports that, as of May 2003, 51.7% of the population of Argentina is below the poverty line. I would assume that they are referring to the CBT or "Total Basic Basket" when they are stating this figure. They do not list their reference, but I imagine they use official government reports.

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