BUENOS AIRES. – They are the World Champions and, besides Lionel Messi and football, Argentines have another love affair.
The United States dollar.
Argentines are reckoned to hold more greenbacks than anywhere outside the US and hoarding them is a way of life for many people.
Polls show that 60 percent of Argentines oppose the idea of dumping their peso because it would give too much power to the US central bank, the Federal Reserve.
But like it or not, the dollar already plays such a big part in their economy.
Argentines have traditionally set little store by their own currency, preferring to convert their spare pesos into dollars as soon as they can. They don’t trust financial institutions much either, so they resort to what is locally known as the “colchón bank” – that is, stuffing their dollars under the mattress.
Anecdotal stories abound of people keeping money buried in the garden, hidden in the walls or even secreted in heating systems – occasionally with disastrous consequences if there is an unexpected cold snap and the cash isn’t retrieved before it goes up in smoke. There are now as many as a dozen different exchange rates, depending on who wants to access the US currency and why.
For the official rate, you need 287 pesos to buy a dollar, but you can only buy US$200 a month and you have to pay punitive taxes on the transaction.
After that, it gets increasingly bizarre.
There is the Coldplay dollar rate (374 pesos to the dollar), especially created for foreign rock bands visiting the country.
And there is the Malbec rate (340 to the dollar), designed to boost exports of wine and other agricultural produce.
And yet the public’s hunger for dollars continues, while everyone from taxi drivers to restaurateurs happily accepts the greenback as payment for goods and services. – BBC/Agencies.