Buenos Aires, Aug 12 (EFE) .- Five months after the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, Argentina faces an increase in poverty and a “critical” social situation that remains “stable” due to the strong presence of the State, According to the Argentine Minister of Social Development, Daniel Arroyo, said in an interview with Efe.
The coronavirus pandemic arrived in Argentina at the worst time for its economy and when the first 100 days of President Alberto Fernández’s administration were just completed, who has decided to prioritize health despite the economic recession that has dragged the country for more than two years and in full negotiation of the exchange of his bulky debt.
In an interview with Efe, Arroyo highlighted the “great deployment of the State in terms of assistance”, but acknowledged that despite these efforts “poverty, unemployment and labor informality are increasing.”
“The social situation is critical and stable. Before the pandemic, we had 8 million who received food assistance and we went to 11 million,” said Arroyo, who pointed out that in recent months even people who have work have had to go to soup kitchens formal but for which the salary is not enough.
For Minister Arroyo “it is clear that the situation has worsened and that there is more poverty than before the pandemic.”
The official data for the first semester of 2020 will be known in September, but according to calculations by various organizations, the general poverty rate already reaches 40%, while last year it affected 35.5%.
The impact will be worse in childhood and, according to Unicef, a total of 8.3 million Argentine children will live under the poverty line at the end of this year, 62.9% of the total, as a consequence of the worsening of the economic crisis and social by the coronavirus.
The crisis is also hitting the Argentine middle classes and in this sense Arroyo highlighted some of the measures such as the Emergency Assistance Program for Work and Production (ATP), for which the State pays up to 50% of workers’ wages from the private sector, which has so far benefited 310,000 companies, 99.5% of them SMEs, which employ 2.8 million people.
The measures “do not cover everyone. It is necessary more clearly. Part of the middle class has important problems, but there has been significant coverage by the State,” he said.
Although the Argentine Minister of Social Development considered that “without a doubt it is going to be a very complex year”, he believes that the “economic recovery is going to be important. It is not going to be spectacular, but it is going to be important.”
As economic activity opens, the situation will begin to improve a little, he added.
The Argentine government decreed preventive and mandatory social isolation on March 20, and since that date it has gone through various stages and openings depending on the epidemiological situation of each province.
The epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Argentina is concentrated in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires, the most populated region with about 15 million inhabitants and which generates 40% of the national GDP, while the sources of community transmission multiply in various parts of the country.
Argentina registers 260,911 people with coronavirus, of which more than 5,000 died, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health.
AXES OF POST-PANDEMIC SOCIAL POLICY
Asked if Argentina plans to move towards the implementation of a basic income, Arroyo said that there is a problem of income, but also of work and access to basic services.
“It is not only a matter of income. It is a time to combine rights and economic movement,” he said.
As a result of the pandemic, Argentina created the Emergency Family Income (IFE), aimed at the unemployed and informal workers, with a monthly aid of 10,000 pesos (about 138 dollars) per month, a benefit that was granted to 9 million people a figure much higher than the one initially calculated by the Government and which reveals the degree of informality and low income in a large part of the Argentine economy.
In addition to this base income, it has launched the “Empower Work” program, with which it intends to generate 300,000 jobs and which has already been launched in the country’s provinces where quarantine has been made more flexible, and has even given way to a phase of “social distancing”.
With this new program, productive units will be created so that people can start, reactivate, consolidate or improve individual or collective, urban or rural initiatives.
In addition, subsidies and non-bank loans at low rates will be used for the purchase of machines, tools, inputs and capital goods.
The plan goes “from the small, that the carpenter has a circular saw, whoever things at home has a sewing machine to the largest companies.”
The five productive sectors that are intended to be promoted with this program are construction; food production; textile; care economy; and the collection and recycling of urban waste.
In addition, the third axis will be the urbanization of vulnerable neighborhoods in which 4 million Argentines live in a precarious situation.
NEW SOCIAL LEADERSHIP IN ARGENTINA
Arroyo considered that there is no risk of a social outbreak in Argentina as happened with the 2001 crisis.
“We all learned from 2001. Today there is much more state. And there is much more society than in 2001. I do not see any risk of social outbreak,” he said.
In addition to a strong State, there is a lot of productive reconversion and “a great social network of churches, NGOs, schools, clubs, a lot of people doing things”, so, according to Arroyo, “the system of social leadership in the Argentina”.
For the Argentine minister, “many people who today have left their home and go to the popular pot, the dining room, the school, are not going to return home; they are going to be part of the new social leaderships,” he concluded.
(c) EFE Agency