Monday, 24 August 2015


Someone we know has retired and is moving lock, stock and barrel to Argentina. “How lovely,” we said, “but why there?” He got quite cross and said Britain was hopelessly overcrowded…we thought about the Highlands and Norfolk and shrugged…”and?” He now got a bit red in the face and barked: “because there is no quality of life in this country.

Yes, the UK only comes 22nd out of 150 counties surveyed by Gallup in terms of happiness but Argentina comes 29th so that doesn’t quite ring true. If you like wine and beef you’ll love Argentina. And I know no one who’s been on holiday there who hasn’t absolutely adored the scenery, food and people. But we need to dig a bit.

In Argentina you’re seven times more likely to be murdered and five times more likely to die in a car crash. Corruption plagues the country and, allegedly, the justice system has many incompetent and corrupt judges. Inflation is 15% (down from 24%) and government interference in the economy makes Jeremy Corbyn look soft.

 In 2001 Argentina defaulted on its debt - think Greece but bigger - and since then no one has trusted them - unsurprising given their investment profile has been so badly damaged by fiscal mismanagement, protectionism, and expropriations. In comparison the UK economy looks wonderfully rosy and liberated.

If you think Tony Blair and Chilcott look dodgy cop this. Alberto Nisman, a crusading prosecutor, was shot dead in his apartment the day before testifying in court and accusing President Cristina Kirchner of attempting to cover up the 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish Cultural Centre.

This has created political turmoil. Oh yes, one other thing - the Vice President has been prosecuted for corruption. Not that any of this much matters as the Kirchner government controls nearly 80% of the Argentine media, either directly or indirectly.

So do I think our friend is crazy?

Provided you can tolerate an extremely left wing and suspect regime of government and will trade this for a spectacular landmass - imagine Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Sweden the North Sea and the Atlantic south of Iceland to Cornwall - you’ll be fine.

From what I know, which is very little, Argentina is scenically extraordinary but most of this comes from albeit sophisticated tourists but none the less tourists. No one I’ve encountered would through choice want to do business there. No one I know is a champion of their politics or economic management.

Yet perhaps there’s more to life than cities and spreadsheets. Perhaps our friend will be munching tender steak and quaffing robust Malbec in the sun whilst we commute grumbling to

London and worry about interest rates going up from 0.5%. And he’ll be enjoying the passion of the people whom Marlene Dietrich described:

Latins are tenderly enthusiastic. In Brazil they throw flowers at you. In Argentina they throw themselves.

Maybe food, drink, love, beautiful women and the tango matter more than money.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very strange country indeed. On my only trip to Buenos Aires, I collected two vital bits of information:
1 Never go in a lift. There are no laws in Argentina requiring regular inspection of lifts, so accidents are frequent.
2 There are more psychoanalysts per head of population than any other city on earth.
Are the two facts linked?