What a shock to leave snowy, soggy Washington and arrive in sultry, sunny Argentina. Oh the joys of summer! It is delightful to shed clothes...boots, coats, gloves...and expose pale northern skin to warm air.
We are on an intense learning experience, and we are soaking it up. We have met with an amazing array of people. Once again, it is an impressive mix of politicians, academics, social entrepreneurs, business leaders. It gives us a composite picture of this complicated country. What is emerging? There is a profound distrust of institutions (polling suggests that a strong majority feel that it is okay to not pay taxes, since there is little to show for it), and at the same time a huge pride in their country and the people. They have a highly educated population, and for those fortunate enough to live in the cities, the quality of life is impressive. Yet in the suburbs surrounding Buenos Aires, people are banding together to lobby for access to natural gas...and water!
This is a country that is innovating in areas of the environment, nuclear and satellite technology, yet that is putting huge export duties on its farmers in an attempt to manage supply within the country, forcing many to switch from their famous cattle to soya crops.
No-one knows what the true rate of inflation is, because the government sacked their chief statistician in 2006, because they did not like the high numbers being reported. However, there are proxy numbers, because salary increases are reported regularly, and last year, salaries rose by an average of 25%. And certainly the people are complaining about it.
I do get a sense of dynamism and optimism....pride in what they have been able to overcome (more on that in a later post on the horrors of the last military dictatorship.) In some ways, we have much in common.....educated people, friendly, lots of natural resources, but the biggest difference is institutional. say what you will about the Brits and common law, but it has laid the foundations for a stable system in our country. IN Argentina, they lament their italo-hispanic institutional traditions....it is not efficient, to say the least! On the other hand, it has given them a tremendous sense of culture and identity that is impressive.
no conclusions yet, but am processing, processing everything I'm taking in.