"I am sure that we will all agree that we have reached this situation because very bad economic policies have been applied, that series of economic decisions were decisive for the Argentine people to disqualify them in the last elections. From the fidelity of that popular mandate, we are going to promote a set of economic and social measures of different nature that begin to reverse the structural course of social and productive backwardness."
Next Sunday, Javier Milei will deliver his inaugural speech as president in front of the Legislative Assembly and the previous paragraph could well be part of it. He is clear in his judgment, forceful. It is functional, moreover, to the confessed intention of the libertarian that his first words tell the truth and only the truth about the extremely difficult situation that the country is going through.
A crude diagnosis of reality would serve to make people blame the hard months to come on the heavy legacy and not on the new government.
The trick is ancient.
So much so that the first paragraph of this column was delivered by Alberto Fernández on December 10, 2019, in his own inaugural speech as president.
Those words reveal another, worse sadness: Argentina lives in a kind of Groundhog Day, again and again in crisis, again and again in search of a solution that never comes. Practically every new president in these 40 years of democracy has been able to point to his predecessor as responsible for the gravity of the moment.
In "Groundhog Day," Bill Murray plays a meteorologist who lives the same day over and over again.
If there is one thing that differentiates Fernandez's initial harangue before Congress, the full reading of which makes you want to laugh as well as cry, from the one Milei will say on Sunday, it is the deepening of malaria.
Just four years ago, Fernández said: "The inflation we currently have is the highest in the last 28 years, since 1991 Argentina has not had an inflation above 50 percent. The unemployment rate is the highest since 2006. The value of the dollar, between 2015 and the present, went from 9.70 to 63 pesos, in just four years. Argentina does not stop shrinking its economy, the GDP per capita is the lowest since 2009, the current poverty is at the highest values since 2008. We have gone back more than ten years in the fight to reduce poverty, the current indigence is at its highest values since 2010 (...) Behind these horrific numbers, there are human beings with decimated expectations. We have to say it clearly: the economy and the social fabric today are in a state of extreme fragility."
If it weren't tragic, what ensued would be a bad joke: inflation hovers around 170%, the dollar exceeds $900, poverty is at 45%, and practically one in ten Argentines (9.6%) is destitute. Prodigal in phrases for astonishment throughout his administration, Fernández left one for the stirrup, now stating that poverty is poorly measured: "If it were 40%, Argentina would be exploding."
It is clear that the President has not been out on the streets for a long time. To prove the explosion, the number of people rummaging through the garbage at all hours is enough.
It is clear that Milei will take office in a demolished country. As they say, he will try to do major surgery, because he believes that otherwise the patient will die in agony. As always, how much anesthesia you apply will be key.
There's a clever 16th-century English saying that "hope for the best and prepare for the worst." Never more relevant than now.