Photo via La Nueva

The National Institute of Statistics and Census today published poverty figures for the first time in almost three years. And the numbers are shocking: 32.2 percent of Argentines fall below the poverty line, while 6.3 percent of the total are destitute. This means that out of the 27.2 million people who live in the urban areas that are part of the index, almost 9 million — or 8,772,000 to be exact — fall under the poverty line.

“Knowing that one of every three Argentines is below the poverty line has to hurt us, anger us and commit us to work together to repair this situation each day,” President Mauricio Macri said after the figures were released.

The indexes used to measure poverty and destitution rates are the so called Total and Food Basket (CBT and CBA, respectively). The basic food basket, as its name implies, includes only food whereas the CBT includes some services as well, although both assume that rent does not have to be paid.

According to another study released by INDEC last week, a household consisting of two adults and two children needed income of AR$12,489.37 per month to not be poor and AR$5,175.92 to not be destitute.

Unsurprisingly, the Argentine Northeastern (NEA) region has the largest concentration of poor people, which account for a whooping 40.1 percent of people not making enough to afford the so called Total Basket (CBT) while 7.6 percent of people are destitute. In contrast, Patagonia has the lowest concentration of poverty as 24.7 percent of its residents are poor and 3.3 percent are destitute.

Indec Head Jorge Todesca. Photo via Infobae.
Indec Head Jorge Todesca. Photo via Infobae.

In the Greater Buenos Aires area, 30.9 percent of the population is poor and 6.2 percent is destitute. That means more than 4.5 out of the 14.6 million people living in the most populated region on the country can’t afford the Total Basket of goods. Out of that number, some 900,000 don’t make enough to buy food.

The government last released the poverty index in December 2013. By then, the Cristina Kirchner administration assured that during the second semester of 2013 the destitution rate was roughly 1 percent, while the poverty was at 4 percent.

By then the numbers were already seen as pretty meaningless, considering everyone knew they weren’t a real reflection of the situation after years of government intervention in the statistics agency.  These rates came from comparing the monthly income of the population with a Total Basket (CBT) of AR$6.56 per day. Needless to say it was impossible to subsist with that little money. The baskets projected by unions, universities and NGOs were roughly 3 times more expensive at the time.

As a result of a lack of available data, many began to turn to the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) that has been publishing poverty data through its Observatory of Social Debt. Its index for the second semester of 2013 indicated that the poverty rate was 27.5 percent, while 5.5 of the total were under the destitution line.

Macri said today the figures released by INDEC today showed the UCA “was right” in the numbers it has been releasing over the past few years.

When Macri took office, his administration quickly declared a “statistics emergency” that allowed INDEC to hold off on publishing data in order to redo its methodologies. Earlier in the year, the UCA estimated that during the first four months of Macri’s administration, roughly 1.4 million people fell under the poverty line, largely due to inflation and hikes in public utilities.

“This starting point is the one I want to be evaluated on as president and as a government,” Macri said. “Today, this is the reality … I want to be evaluated on whether I was able to decrease poverty.”