Compared with other countries in the region, Argentina responded forcefully to the Covid-19 pandemic. President Alberto Fernández, who took office at the end of last year, moved quickly and implemented one of Latin America’s strictest lockdowns, which remains in place for major urban centers and, especially, in Buenos Aires. Amid the pandemic, Fernández’s approval ratings rose to between 60 and 80 percent, according to pollsters.
At the same time, the country is facing an acute economic crisis that predates the pandemic. Argentina has once again defaulted on its sovereign debt, although negotiations with bondholders continue and both sides hope to reach an agreement in June. Further, although the lockdown slowed the spread of the virus, it has also hit Argentines hard. Lower-income Argentines living in the Buenos Aires area, with little access to public services and virtually no income during the confinement, are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic and the economic crisis. The government has boosted social welfare spending, but it has limited room for maneuver in a context of high inflation, economic contraction, and high fiscal deficits. According to the IMF, Argentina’s GDP is expected to shrink by at least 6 percent in 2020, deepening a recession that started in 2018.
- Is the government doing enough to alleviate the socioeconomic impact of the lockdown?
- What is the role of civil society in Buenos Aires’ poorest areas?
- What are the prospects for a successful debt restructuring?
- Will Alberto Fernández use his popularity to distance himself from Cristina Fernández de Kirchner?
- To what extent has there been coordination between President Fernández and governors and mayors?
- Can the country overcome its polarized political environment, known as la grieta, in tackling this crisis?
The Dialogue is pleased to welcome three distinguished panelists from Argentina with vast experience in the academic and policy worlds for an in-depth discussion about this and other issues facing the country.