Buenos Aires Times

opinion and analysis G20 LEADERS SUMMIT

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Whatever they are here for, welcome Mr Trump to the land of freeloaders, corrupt presidents and a widespread national aspiration to become public employees as a safe job in which to go on strike.

Friday 30 November, 2018
Protesters shut down Avenida 9 de Julio.
Protesters shut down Avenida 9 de Julio. Foto:NA

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This is the biggest presidential bash in the life of Mauricio Macri. He worked very hard to make it happen. Our Mauricio already had a shining start with the friendly reception he gave former US president Barack Obama in March 2016. That short chapter seemed to put behind us the show by Néstor Kirchner against then-US president George W. Bush, during the Summit of the Americas in November, 2005. Add to that then the parallel visit of Venezuela’s late national hero Hugo Chávez, who chaired a rival summit, and who was loaning cash at 15 per cent to Argentina ostensibly to pay the IMF debt at four per cent. Bush left these muddy shores not well pleased. In spite of your own thoughts make sure you mutter: “Welcome, Mr Trump”. It can be under your breath and not much felt, but this is the season of right-wing turns, so take this in your stride.

Whatever they are here for, welcome Mr Trump to the land of freeloaders, corrupt presidents and a widespread national aspiration to become public employees as a safe job in which to go on strike. We are told by some that we could have up to 40 percent unemployed – the other 55 per cent are not producing much but they work at looking as if they did. Take the pilots in Aerolíneas Argentinas. They strike on wages of 200,000 pesos and rebel against the five-star hotels they lodge in during flight breaks because they are one block away from the beach. That really teaches tourists they must return to Buenos Aires – with only one visit they did not have enough time to visit more airports. The country’s real hard-working group operate as regular picket activists. Participants consider (in their party) this to be a job, even if they are only told by their leaders when they gather at the corner of Avenida Callao and Corrientes what they are protesting against or if they might best join another column of marchers. 

The City mayor, who can be recognised easily as the character out of those ancient Henry comic strips or the boy with pins and needles in his bare head advertising a brand of aspirins, yeah, that’s him. Apparently he does not want to act on his campaign promise, made to win office in December 2015, when he said it was unfair to stage demos preventing other people to reach their intended destination. Now he does not want to disband picket lines or marchers because letting them perform is not a great drain on city coffers and he fears the loss of votes in his announced plan for re-election. The few who want to get somewhere each morning, braving traffic upheaval and public transport delays, gunfights and bag-snatchers, are really not sooo important.

The remaining five per cent in that overview of 40-55 in the job spectrum might be landowners who complain that their taxes are too high, that the whole of the country depends on the revenue from farming exports, and all are waiting for next harvest’s income to pay the wages of their hard-pressed workers, who might not have collected this year.

However, in that five percent, Argentina has some of the most brilliant individuals in the world, who can’t work in teams because that is not sufficiently encouraged.

So the story for the G20 is that we can feed the world, but we throw away food. The government does not do enough to build up that five percent who harvest, breed, produce, research or whatever they are supposed to be doing.

We know this, so presumably we can ask what remarkably bright future the great leaders in the Group of 20 countries can promise after a few hours this weekend. Surely most of what the leaders can talk about could have been discussed on the phone or in a WhatsApp message. Fascinating sounds. 

So let’s have a great party. Put aside the thought that it could also be an interesting experiment to have a G20 conference happen in the psychiatric hospital in Barracas. The inmates and residents could be holed-up in one of the five-star hotels near the muddy river, no beaches.

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