As the FIFA World Cup finale ended, and as Buenos Aires erupted in euphoria and ecstasy, one realised the importance of sports in society. One also realised how such major instances distract the attention of a people from the troubles of life, from the dire straits the country is going through now. Take Argentina, for example:
According to an Argentina projection note by the OECD Economic Outlook, Published on November 22, 2022, the outlook of the Argentine economy is anything but lively.
“After a strong rebound in 2021 and an expected deterioration in the second half of 2022, GDP is projected to rise by 0.5% in 2023 and 1.8% in 2024. The agreement with the IMF has significantly reduced uncertainty about short-term macroeconomic policies, but the external situation remains fragile. High inflation will weigh on private consumption and will take time to recede. Tight capital controls and policy uncertainty are leading to a sharp fall in investment in the second half of 2022 and their persistence will allow only a modest recovery in 2023 and 2024.
“Public spending will fall during 2022 and 2023, as pandemic-related fiscal support is withdrawn and energy subsidies are scaled back. Still, compliance with IMF targets will require further spending restraint. A planned sharp reduction in monetary financing will reduce inflationary pressures in the medium run, reduce the gap between the official and the parallel exchange rates and decrease the risk of devaluation. Stabilising the macroeconomic situation and lowering inflation are crucial to reduce high poverty and mounting social pressures.”
It goes on to say that ‘Economic activity is stagnating’. Elaborating, the note says:
“Economic growth continued to progress in the first half of 2022, but at a slower pace. Short-term indicators point to further slowing during the third quarter of 2022. The unemployment rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels, reaching 6.9% in the second quarter of 2022, although informality has increased sharply, approaching 38% of the labour force. Year-on-year headline inflation rose to 88% in October, amid unanchored one-year ahead inflation expectations of 99% and a widening gap between the official and the parallel exchange rate.”
It is clear that the Argentine economy is barely out of the pit that had driven it to the IMF in the first place, needing severe structural changes.
Yet, in the aftermath of the World Cup victory, stunning that it was, public sentiment rose to an all time high.
This is a great example of how public memory is short, how the combined memory of a people can easily forget tragedies of mammoth proportions – think of how much detail we do remember of the incredible tragedy of Covid, just last year, in India – and a way out initiated by governments. As the Argentine government went out of its way to encourage the madness around Buenos Aires – Argentine is a football-loving country, and this, to an extent, is justifiable, though – this is this balm that soothes pains temporarily.
Soon, as the euphoria dies in that country, the financial difficulties will come back to haunt the people, all over again.
This has been the typical distraction-balm, if you may, used from ages gone by. One has to look back at the obscene concentration the late stage Romans had on gladiatorial sports and how popular they became. Those sentiments rode roughshod over the pains of the common man, the sheer injustice of the emperors.
China has followed such examples, as did the Soviet Union.
Sports, the natural ‘upper’ has been misused over and over again. Something says this has to stop. Let problems be solved in the backdrop of those problems, and not within high-decibel shouting of temporary wins that the governments take credit for.