Bianca Fernet was “born” in 2011 out of my frustration with coverage of Argentina’s economy that I felt missed the point and demonstrated a vast chasm between reality. Frankly, everyone else didn’t know what they were talking about so I felt a moral obligation to jump into the fray.
It is perceived moral obligation that has lured me back behind my cheeky pseudonym to opine on Argentina’s current economic malaise. I’m going to start with this idea making the rounds in the Wall Street Journal, this article on Forbes, and pretty much every think tank whoring themselves around for a slice of the action.
Let me be clear – anyone who holds this opinion has zero idea what they are talking about and may have never met an Argentine in their lives.
Argentina will never ever dollarize despite there being a strong economic case in favor of doing so because it is run by Argentines. If Argentina possessed the dedication to logic and collective will to do something so drastic, they would not be in this predicament in the first place. Again. Argentines are neither swayed nor convinced by strong logical cases.
To understand Argentina’s economy, you first must understand Argentines, and let’s not delude my feminist self, this means getting into the heads of Argentine men. Chalk it up to Latin passion if you want, but Argentine men make decisions based on their feelings in the moment
And listen IMF and Wall Street – we have all been there. They seem so cute with those little Italian suits and shiny shoes, with borderline mullet haircuts and just a bit of fashionable stubble. We know how you must have felt the sincerity emanating from Nicolas Dujovne’s impossibly clear blue eyes as he promised you that this time, Argentina was ready to be a grown up and make responsible economic decisions. I too may have fallen victim to Guido Sandleris’s soft golden curls while he regaled me with the promise of tight monetary policy. So we can appreciate that your head is spinning and you can’t wrap your mind around why things fell apart so fast, and how reality could possibly be something so totally different than what you perceived.
But listen Wall Street, rather than turn to a bunch of grumpy opinion shills who make their livings pontificating about countries they’ve visited maybe a few times, in this instance you have a veritable gold mine of insight at your fingertips. Reach out to someone who actually understands Argentine men. The IMF and Wall Street should seek the council of women who have fallen prey to dating one or more Argentines.
I moved to Buenos Aires in my 20s, where I was surrounded by a group of dynamic, brilliant, cosmopolitan women, each living in Argentina for her version of Santi or Nico or Guille or Fede or Martin. Zero of these women are still here, because once you’ve known a handful or so of Argentine men you realize a few things.
Your exotic Argentine novio may be cute in your 20’s, but unless you want to age prematurely from anxiety born out of suppressing rage and interpreting erratic and ultimately illogical behavior, it’s time to grow up and move on. At the end of the day, that’s just how Argentine men behave in both life and economic decision making.
Every Argentine will tell you that he’s different, and he’s not really like other Argentines. Many will claim to not even be from Argentina, and rather insist they are in fact European. I am willing to wager that the best way to identify an Argentine in the wild is their insistence that they are not Argentine.
When Macri’s administration came to Wall Street promising change and reform, he believed himself to be capable of engineering an economic about face. But it’s not the economy, stupid, it’s the culture. Argentina’s proclivity to over-borrow, over-spend, and then act like bewildered victims of some complex plot has nothing to do with the economic theory. All the austerity in the world is not going to magically transform Argentines into logical decision makers.
So to the IMF and Wall Street, let me offer you a jewel of wisdom. Think of the current administration and Alberto Fernandez as your versions of Fede, Martin, and Nico. When he says he
loves you will pay back loans and not enact currency controls, he’s not lying – exactly. He’s simply Argentine, and thus bewilderingly capable of holding multiple opposing and incompatible ideas in his head, and simultaneously believing they are all true.
Argentina is on an inevitable path back to currency controls. Argentina will never dollarize. And Nico does love you, he just loves himself more. Just remember that Argentine promises – like a juicy cut of steak – are best consumed with a healthy pinch of salt.