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A woman walks between signs with food prices on a street in Buenos Aires. -- AFP
A woman walks between signs with food prices on a street in Buenos Aires. -- AFP

Argentine inflation slows for second month in a row

BUENOS AIRES: Argentine inflation slowed for a second month in a row, statistics showed Tuesday, amid a series of belt-tightening measures under President Javier Milei, who has vowed to halt the country’s economic decline. Monthly inflation stood at 13.2 percent in February, down from 20.6 percent in January and 25.5 percent in December, according to the INDEC statistics agency.

This figure is “the result of the national government’s work to impose strong fiscal discipline,” said Milei’s office in a statement. The president said earlier this week that any figure less than “15 percent would be a great number.” Milei said he was hoping that by April there would be a “sharp drop in inflation.” Nevertheless, annual inflation continued to rise and hit 276 percent in February as Latin America’s third-largest economy reels under Milei’s economic “shock” treatment.

Since he took office in December, Milei has slashed public spending, winning the approval of the International Monetary Fund and securing a budget surplus for the first time in 12 years in a country whose previous governments oversaw rampant inflation and multiple fiscal crises.

He devalued the peso by more than 50 percent, halted state subsidies for fuel and transport, cut tens of thousands of public service jobs, and scrapped hundreds of rules in his bid to deregulate the economy. However, his efforts to slash state spending have hit Argentines hard, with the price of bus tickets almost tripling, and aid cut to thousands of soup kitchens.

And the economy is also experiencing a significant slowdown, with consumption slowing 13.4 percent year-on-year, according to the Focus Market firm. “Argentina has been in recession for 14 months, but the last four were the most intense. The price increase was very strong and consumption has collapsed,” independent economist Federico Glustein told AFP.

While the IMF—which has a $44 billion credit program with Argentina—has praised Milei’s efforts to balance the books, it warned last month about the impacts on the poor. IMF deputy managing director Gita Gopinath told La Nacion newspaper that austerity measures must be “calibrated to ensure that social assistance continues to be provided and that the burden does not fall entirely on the poorest groups.” Gopinath estimated that Argentina’s inflation would drop to single digits by the middle of 2024. — AFP

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