“Then we continue working with inflation, but first let Argentina win,” said Labor Minister Kelly Olmos. It is not the first time nor will it be the last that a government seeks to dodge the criticism behind the brilliance of the World Cup. “You have to work all the time because of inflation, but one month is not going to make a big difference,” said the minister in the week prior to Argentina’s first match in Qatar which ended in an unexpected defeat against Saudi Arabia.
The economic crisis in Argentina brings young people closer to the most radical ideas of the rightRELATED
After some timid apologies from the Government, where OImos explained that he did not mean that he was “going to spend a month without doing anything” but was referring to the importance “that it would mean emotionally for Argentines” that the Argentine team leave champion, the question is now how much a good result can have an impact on the spirit of a society with a poverty close to 40% and one 88% year-on-year inflation and that it could reach 100% in December.
While only the 11% of Argentines say they are satisfied With the general trend of things, 77% consider that a good result in the World Cup could influence the social mood, according to the Political Satisfaction and Public Opinion Survey from the University of San Andres. Whether or not the performance of the Argentine national team can serve as a placebo in a dying economy will depend on social perception.
Macroeconomic conditions, especially economic crises, have an impact on people’s well-being. “In countries with high inflation rates, society cannot plan its life, it loses control over the situation, where financial insecurity plays a central role against well-being,” says Lucía Macchia, a researcher at the Center for Investigation of Well-being from the University of Oxford, specialist in the analysis of the influence of macroeconomics on the well-being of Latin American societies.
In the midst of a climate of growing economic malaise, Argentines try to find consolation for a more structural sadness in smaller and more immediate joys. But a dose of enthusiasm does not improve the problem. “This share of joy that the World Cup can bring, in addition to being superficial, is short-term. The effect of inflation on people’s purchasing power, whether Argentina wins or not, will remain the same.”
For Macchia, more than a dose of optimism, the World Cup is the “distraction” necessary to generate a sensation of temporary relief. “The World Cup can divert attention to something positive, which in turn has a great anticipatory effect, one enjoys the preparation for the event much more than the game itself. That leads to an illusion that feeds optimism”.
In this context, the high rate of disapproval of the Government of Alberto Fernández, with a 76% negative image, could find the solution to the outer layer of its problems in the world championship. However, only 22% firmly believe that if Argentina wins the World Cup, the general well-being of the people will increase. Which does not mean that, even in the face of an eventual victory for Argentina in the final, the Government can manage to renew for four more years in 2023.
56% find little or no relationship between the result of the World Cup and the next presidential elections. Among libertarians, linked to the extreme right of Vox in Spain, 69% disagree with the idea that the result could influence the next elections. While, for voters of the ruling Frente de Todos, that number drops to 59%.
In short, the perception that the course of things in the country will be better as a result of an external event such as a good result in the World Cup, is only useful for those people who do not have the basic tools to assess the economic situation. “An economist, as well as a representative of the IMF, will continue to think the same. What can change is the popular perception”, says Macchia.
The next match
In any case, things did not go well in the first game. And a defeat in the opening match, for a society already marked by worries, has a greater impact on the social mood than if the result had been positive. “The defeat in Argentina’s first game goes against the general anticipatory optimism. The dissatisfaction of this negative result is much greater than the satisfaction we would have had if the result was positive”, says Macchia.
The Argentines will look for a dose of optimism in Saturday’s game against Mexico that, until now, neither the economic numbers nor the start of the World Cup have been able to guarantee.