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How the Long Shadow of Peronism Can Foil Argentina’s Recovery

By: Guest Contributor - Mar 20, 2017, 4:29 pm
How Peron's long shadow cripples Argentina's recovery
Thanks to former President Juan Domingo Perón, Argentines began to cultivate the culture of statism, interventionism, protectionism, distributionism and many other ‘isms’. (Atlantic Sentinel)

EspañolBy Yamila Feccia

Over a year has passed since Mauricio Macri took office, and hope for radical change in Argentine policy management is being overshadowed by the rising concern over economic recovery and the tug-of-war from interest groups.

The skepticism of Argentines is fueled by economic forecasters and preliminary estimates that predict a takeoff for 2017. However, Argentina is a special country, where to carry out only an economic analysis wouldn’t be enough.

Argentina has another problem, one that is perhaps more complex the macroeconomic imbalances that it has dragged on for several decades: its underlying values. Cultural factors can also limit opportunities and close doors, and today the country is still affected by ulcerated roots that subject it to constant instability.

It is true that Mauricio Macri’s party, Cambiemos, has normalized Argentine policy, turning a page on the years of unscrupulous looting of the public sector and making room for reasonable discourse on public affairs that any normal country enjoys.

However, Argentine history shows that good intentions aren’t enough when it comes to putting a country on the path to prosperity. Those same lessons help us understand why Argentines are particularly vulnerable to populism. These cultural traits are well-known by demagogues, who spread the poison of corruption and appeal to deeply ingrained values to win votes and stay in power.

The seeds of these values that crave populism were sown more than a century ago but reactivated 30 years later.

In 1945, general Juan Domingo Perón, the former populist president of Argentina, rose the sleeping hopes of many Argentines and inspired distorted values and concepts which ended up taking root. He revived many flaws, while new ones sprang up.

Argentines’ mental maps began to unravel and acquired a misconception of the role of the state. We began to cultivate the culture of statism, interventionism, protectionism, distributionism and many other ‘isms’. For example, the belief that the state is responsible for providing and solving everything, even for bridging the inequality gap through redistribution, as if wealth were a given and not a result.

An example of how values can undermine growth can be seen in the book “The Atrocious Charm of Being Argentine”. Its author Marcos Aguinis explains the famous concept of viveza criolla, and defines it as an Argentine custom which has an antisocial effect, spreads resentment and poisons mutual respect.

 

It has tragic long-term moral and economic consequences. In addition, he defines two main participants: the cunning and the fool. The first one is the one who pulls off the con trick, while the second one is the victim. According to Aguinis, the so-called viveza criolla grows under authoritarianism and sneaks in through the claws of power.

The cunning finds corruption exciting, he is an expert of fraud and tries to get the most out of it. In addition, he feeds on the fool’s impotence, though his intention is not to destroy him but to simply use him to his advantage.

This kind of behavior is more present than one can imagine. It is hidden in part of the country’s greatest inheritance: the inheritance of Kirchnerism. It is hidden in the 7 percent deficit-to-GDP ratio; in irresponsible money printing; in the almost US$700 million more in taxes that we are charged in comparison to the last decade; in the 1,2 million unemployed; in the 64 percent public sector employment growth, which is plagued by political patronage and corruption; in the inefficient infrastructure of public schools; in the energy deficit; in the 700% cumulative inflation of the last 10 years; in the 30 percent of poor people and 6 percent of indigents; in the US$ 207 billion debt; in the 60 different types of social programs with more than 18 million beneficiaries; in the manipulation of official statistics, etc.

But how does this distorted version of cleverness permeate every corner of the society? The cunning stands for nationalism and waves the flag of protectionism by selling the fool overpriced and lower-quality goods.

Cunning is the union leader who enjoys exorbitant benefits and uses his followers demagogically to remain in power; while the fool, persuaded by his words, happily joins the union.

The cunning spends his life sucking on the state’s udder because that’s easier than working; while the fool pays taxes with great dignity to keep the wheels turning.

Cunning are the politicians who have long vanished from the public space so that shrewder groups established the culture of strikes and pickets, making the fool’s daily commute a tortuous journey.

The cunning fights for a more inclusive country by expanding social programs funded by seigniorage, while the fool thinks he’s being included.

The cunning squanders taxpayers’ money in the name of redistribution, while the fool believes free lunches exist.

In other words, cunning is the one whose speech is sickly deceitful, and fool is the one who swallows it.

It seems clear though that this rebellious rule-breaking attitude cripples any kind of long term-project, condemning us to the short-term, to improvisation, to chaos. That’s to say, we are condemned to fail.

As Joan Robinson states, every economic system needs rules, an ideology and a conscience in the individual so that he follows those rules. When people keep breaking them, society finds itself trapped in chaos that hinders its growth. So we may have the rules, we may have an ideology, but without a conscience, we are doomed to stagnation and underdevelopment.

For the economy to take off, we need to grow up and emancipate from the state, changing the rules and leaving behind the culture that prevents us from evolving, along with its disruptive anti-values, such as political patronage and welfare dependency that gnaw at our individual efforts, creativity, talent, legitimacy, sense of responsibility and working culture.

Argentina, a teenage country, needs to follow the steps of more prosperous nations, empowering its institutions, respecting property rights, upholding contracts, equal opportunities, separation of powers, and acknowledging the limitations of the executive branch.

Not only should we focus on growth, but also on restoring the health of a crumbling state and its inherent role: to provide justice and safety.

Yamila Feccia is an Argentine economist from Rosario who specializes in the analysis and development of economic variables. She is a researcher with the Center for Social and Economic Research at Fundación Libertad in Argentina.

Why Cuban Schoolteachers Are Quitting their Jobs Massively

By: Guest Contributor - Mar 20, 2017, 3:56 pm
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By Rosa Magdalena Aviles Carballo/ HABLEMOS PRESS. EspañolMAYABEQUE, CUBA — Teachers and other education professionals started leaving their jobs at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year in Cuba's Mayabeque province. Over the next few months, many followed suit. This year's figure constitutes the biggest exodus of teachers since 1998, according to a source from the Provincial Education Directorate. "The accumulation of teachers who left classrooms this 2016-2017 period exceeds 250 ... and in this province alone!" said a source speaking on the condition of anonymity. Educators left their schools in three stages: at the end of the last school year, during the first week of September and then throughout the following months — all arguing they receive extremely low salaries. A primary and secondary teacher earns between 450 and 500 Cuban pesos, or about US $20 a month. In the last 10 years, wage increases for teachers amounted to around US $3. Meanwhile, workloads and responsibilities were multiplied due to a lack of educators. At the beginning of 2016-2017 school year, the Ministry of Education of the province was silent about the exodus of teachers. Some also reportedly left due to a lack of "appropriate conditions to exercise their profession," poor quality of food in schools and difficulties in getting to and from work. As the problem has grown, increasingly fewer people are entering the teaching field. Though there is a teacher training school in the Mayabeque province, "Pedro Albizu Campos," which this year welcomed 600 students, many have abandoned the career path altogether. Read More: Guillermo Lasso Denounces Lilian Tintori’s Expulsion from Ecuador "The teachers we currently have in schools throughout the province are mainly older than 50," the source said. Yailen Sanchez, a student, said to be a teacher is to die of hunger, and that she would never pursue the profession. Instead, she chose gastronomy. "Maybe I can work in tourism," she said, "which is where teachers are going, because they pay better." Teachers receive more dividends for private, off-the-books services often taught out of their homes. Others resort to fraud, or are allowed to receive gifts from students to improve their grades after difficult exams. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1459522593195-0'); });   "It is likely that many other teachers will continue to abandon their jobs and look for better salaries in the private sector," said María de los Ángeles Rodríguez, a Cuban history teacher who left last year. "In general, the whole country is affected by this situation, off-the-book classrooms are popping up where professionals have the opportunity to teach higher quality classes because when students pay for their lessons, they are obliged to pay more attention and respect," said Nora, an English teacher, who runs a home with 10 students, three hours a day from Monday to Friday, for two dollars a week. Read More: Cuba Offers Former FARC Guerrilla 500 Medical School Scholarships "I'm afraid to tell you this," Nora said. "In Cuba, private schools are not allowed, though it is clear that a student learns better according to the care that the professional can offer, and the results justify the professional's payment." This note was originally published in Hablemos Press, an independent Cuban media outlet. The PanAm Post has established a strategic alliance with Hablemos Press to present Cuba's reality to our readers, which is ignored by the traditional media.

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