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Samuel Gregg on Argentina’s economy

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After a recent trip to Argentina, Samuel Gregg reflects on its current economic state in a piece for The Catholic World Report.  Gregg highlights the role that current Argentine politics play on economic policy and how Pope Francis affects the Catholic Church in his home country.

For the first time in 13 years, Argentina has elected a non-Perónist leader.  Mauricio Macri replaced Néstor Kirchner and his wife Cristina in November 2015. The Kirchners represented a wave of Latin American leftist-populists and brought economic disarray to Argentina.  Gregg talks about some of the good economic policies that Macri is already putting in place:

Since assuming office, Argentina’s new President, Mauricio Macri, has sought to take the country in very different directions. He ended Argentina’s backing of the Chávista regime that has all but destroyed Venezuela. Macri is also exposing deep-seated corruption, the most notorious case thus far being a former Kirchner government official caught hiding several million US dollars in a convent. This has been accompanied by an effort to detoxify public discourse of the demagogic rhetoric that’s long plagued Argentine politics. Economically, Macri has started, albeit cautiously, moving Argentina away from its closed, highly-statist economic arrangements. This has included abolishing currency and capital controls as well as eliminating some price-controls, particular export taxes, and specific subsidies.

Will the Catholic Church help smooth the path away from populism? Or will it, in the name of defending the poor, encourage resistance to reform?

It’s also evident that the manner in which the pope speaks about poverty is shaping many Argentine Catholics’ approach to this subject. In an August 1 letter to Argentina’s bishops, for instance, Francis spoke of people’s need for bread and work. People must be able to feed their families, he noted. But they also want to earn their bread through work, Francis stressed, instead of receiving handouts.

In the end of the article, Gregg discusses Argentina’s greatest hurdle in getting away from collective populism and that is the idea that the state should be the leader in fighting unemployment, food-shortages, and poverty-increases.

Argentina’s Catholic bishops had generally been careful not to comment on the precise policy details surrounding these challenges. This is, they recognize, primarily the responsibility of lay Catholics. But on August 13, the bishop who heads the Argentine episcopal conference’s Social Pastorate Commission publicly called for a “greater presence of the state” to combat unemployment, food-shortages, and poverty-increases.

You can read Gregg’s full article on The Catholic World Report here.

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Kyle Hanby

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