BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – South America’s Argentina is suffering from blistering inflation. Citizens who have become difficult to live are desperate to continue their daily lives, such as scavenging mountains of garbage in search of reusable items and participating in barter parties.
The annual consumer price index (CPI) is expected to rise by more than 100% this year, the highest rate of growth since the hyperinflation of the 1990s. Despite efforts around the world to curb inflation exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Argentina’s price rise stands out.
Sergio Omar, 41, lamented, “I don’t have enough income,” and spends 12 hours a day scavenging through piles of garbage at a garbage disposal site in Lujan, a suburb of Buenos Aires. He finds and sells cardboard, plastic and metal.
Food prices have skyrocketed in recent months, making it difficult for Omar, a mother of five, to feed her family. It is said that more and more people are looking for things to sell at landfills because their lives are at a standstill.
“The situation has become critical and the number of people coming here has doubled,” said Omar. Selling recyclable waste can earn 2,000-6,000 pesos ($13-$40) a day.
A Reuters reporter saw men and women scouring the landfill for still-usable clothing and even food. Gases from rotting waste suddenly ignited on the mountain of garbage, and the sight of rats, wild dogs, and birds picking up carrion was spreading.
Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world a century ago. However, in recent years, repeated economic crises have made it difficult to keep inflation under control.
Rising costs of importing fertilizer and natural gas have compounded the old problem of printing more money and price hikes by companies, and the current pace of inflation is the fastest since the 1990s.
Analysts polled by Reuters said September inflation is expected to be 6.7% month-on-month, prompting the central bank to raise interest rates to 75% and possibly keep tightening thereafter.
The poverty rate in the first half of this year exceeded 36%. About 2.6 million people, or 8.8% of the total population, live in extreme poverty. Although the government’s support plan has prevented further deterioration, there are also voices calling for an expansion of the welfare budget despite the limited state budget.
The Lujan Barter Club, founded by Sandra Contreras in 2001 when Argentina was in the midst of a severe economic crisis, has recently seen a resurgence of activity. People who can’t keep up with the high prices come to trade old clothes for flour and pasta.
“People are really desperate because they don’t have enough money and the situation is getting worse every day,” Contreras said. “I don’t have money, but I have to bring something home, so I have no choice but to barter,” he explains.
Pablo Lopez, 26, who works at a small recycling center, can clearly see the scars of soaring prices. “The inflation this time is crazy. When you look at the people working, you can see that inflation is hitting us all.”
(Reporter by Lucila Sigal)