Key facts: Argentina
January 01, 2009
by Meyer Sosland
: Buenos Aires
Population: 40.482 million (July 2008 est.)
Religions: Nominally Roman Catholic 92% (less than 20% practicing), Protestant 2%, Jewish 2%, other 4%.
Location: Southern South America, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Chile and Uruguay.
Government: Republic. Chief of state and head of government: President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (since Dec. 10, 2007).
Economy: Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, an export-oriented agricultural sector, and a diversified industrial base. Although one of the world’s wealthiest countries 100 years ago, Argentina suffered during most of the 20th century from recurring economic crises, persistent fiscal and current account deficits, high inflation, mounting external debt, and capital flight. A severe depression, growing public and external indebtedness, and a bank run culminated in 2001 in the most serious economic, social, and political crisis in the country’s turbulent history. Interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saá declared a default - the largest in history on the government’s foreign debt in December of that year, and abruptly resigned only a few days after taking office. His successor, Eduardo Duhalde, announced an end to the peso’s decade-long 1-to-1 peg to the U.S. dollar in early 2002. The economy bottomed out that year, with real GDP 18% smaller than in 1998 and almost 60% of Argentines under the poverty line. Real GDP rebounded to grow by an average 9% annually over the subsequent five years, taking advantage of previously idled industrial capacity and labor, an audacious debt restructuring and reduced debt burden, excellent international financial conditions, and expansionary monetary and fiscal policies. Inflation, however, reached double-digit levels in 2006 and the government of President Nestor Kirchner responded with "voluntary" price agreements with businesses, as well as export taxes and restraints. Multi-year price freezes on electricity and natural gas rates for residential users stoked consumption and kept private investment away, leading to restrictions on industrial use and blackouts in 2007.
GDP per capita: $13,100 (2007 est.); Inflation: 8.8% official rate; actual rate may be double the official rate (2007 est.); unemployment 8.5% (2007 est.).
Currency: Argentine peso (ARS); 3.4 Argentine pesos equal 1 U.S. dollar (Dec. 19, 2008)
Exports: $55.78 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): soybeans and derivatives, petroleum and gas, vehicles, corn, wheat.
Imports: $42.53 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): machinery, motor vehicles, petroleum and natural gas, organic chemicals, plastics.
Major crops/agricultural products: Sunflower seeds, lemons, soybeans, grapes, corn, tobacco, peanuts, tea, wheat; livestock.
Agriculture: 9.5% of GDP and 1% of the labor force
Internet: Code. .ar; 3.813 million (2008) hosts and 9.309 million (2007) users.