I was just reading in La Nación an interview with Cristina Krichner, the newly elected Argentine president, and when asked which country she’d like Argentina to emulate, she answered Germany. This is both a good and a bad answer.

What’s good is that she didn’t say that Argentina should be like Venezuela where a neo-militarist uses the country’s wealth to empower himself in the region while his people live in poverty (the average Venezuelan has half the income of the average Argentine). But the bad part of her answer is that it reflects a grave misunderstanding of international politics. After having been in Germany more than 50 times and having built companies there with mixed results, I can simply say one thing about Germany: Germany is successful in its own way, but Germany is so incredibly different from Argentina and Germans are so very different from Argentines that it would be almost impossible to even begin comparing the two.

Cristina Kirchner would have shown a greater sense of understanding having said that Argentina should follow Spain’s model, an objective that could perhaps be met after a 20 year investment in civic education. Plus, being like Spain with all of Argentina’s natural resources wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. Presently, the problem with trying to copy Spain’s model is that Spain, as we know it, may cease to exist in 20 years. The paradox is that Argentina is a country that went from being rich to poor and yet Argentines are all proud of being Argentine. On the other hand, Spain has lived the undeniable success of transforming itself from a third to a first world nation, and yet many Spanish people dream of being citizens of a separate nation.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Niko on October 30, 2007  · 

I do not think that Mrs. Kirchner would have shown a “greater sense of understanding” if she had said that Argentina should follow Spain’s model. After all, Mrs. Kirchner was not basing her comparison on desirable work ethoses or educational systems. Her statement of comparison was relating to Argentina becoming an export player like Germany. Since Spain is a net importer, with a huge and unfavorable trade deficit, referring to Spain as a desirable economic model, would have not been in line with her objective of instigating an export orientated economic model in Argentina.

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Ignacio on October 30, 2007  · 

Martin, I totally agree that Germany is not a meaningful or realistic model for Argentina. Actually, our model could be a convex combination (so to say) of Spain (for culture and inheritance) and Australia (an immigrant based, rich society), both being much better organized than Argentina these days.

Besides, I doubt whether Cristina Fernandez has the knowledge of the German language and society to really appreciate its subtleties.

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Juergen on October 30, 2007  · 

Likely, Mrs. Kirchner referred only to the German post-war model of a social market economy, with safety-nets in place, public health insurance, pension systems, public schools and so forth. This model is not too far off from Spain; and in the rest of Europe. Obviously, Argentina and Spain are culturally more related to each other besides a strong influx of Italian, German, Jewish, Chinese or other cultures.

But I am not sure if Spain is a good role model for Argentina; where would Spain be today without the help of the European Union? It was underdeveloped 20 years ago, but it is managing to use EU funds wisely to build up its infrastructure. This is a luxury that Argentina does not have today.

Having lived in Argentina it is hard to see how the country will be able to overcome inequality by itself; parallel societies, fenced rich neighborhoods vs. poor shanty towns (Villas), parallel societies that are segregated, without any common ground. There is a relatively small rich and educated constituency vs. a large group of poor easily influencable population prone to populist regimes; in between, a thinly spread middle-class, fearing to descend into poverty.

Argentina has to find its own way! Just like Spain, it would help tremendously to get support from a “healthy” partnership, though, unfortunately, they may be finding it in Hugo Chavez. Martin is right, Argentines are so unilaterally proud of their country; that pride one can only envy being German.

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ted on October 31, 2007  · 

I agree, Germany is a crazy example to follow for Argentina. But I don’t think Spain is the role model either. Spain really came out from the cold partly thanks to the EU, which provided political stability, subsidies, etc. The 2 big engines pulling the economy were/are tourism and real estate – both related to their priviledged geographical position. I have argued many times in the past years that Ireland is a much better and positive example.

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Andres on November 13, 2007  · 

I think you are giving much more credit than deserved to our new President. I doubt it it’s really in the intentions of the actual government to get anywhere near Germany, as it is probably in the antipodes of their informal power scheme and structure.

I believe the mention is really based on a the perception of the message, by the general public and echoed by the media. I doubt that, much of the analysis you and other senseful thinkers correctly do, is going to reach the voting population of Argentina.

In the colective mind of Argentina, Germany seems to be a major model of synchronicity, progress and social achivement. That is what she wants to tie to, but, as I said before, I highly doubt that our kind of rulers would want to pursue a model that would eventually destroy their power.

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vqp on December 5, 2007  · 

I agree with Ted but I’d point out that Spain success is also based on soft EU credits that funded a sort of new colonization wave. This allowed some spanish companies entering the big leagues by suspiciously acquiring some profitable businesses in South America.

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gibilix on April 27, 2008  · 

I am Italian and for personal reasons I know quite well both Argentina and Spain.
I disagree that Spain’s success is based on EU credits. Other countries have benefit from EU credits like Portugal, Italy and Greece and none of them has performed as well as Spain.
Spain has been compressed under a tremendous dictature for 40 years and in the 70’s, when Italy was still in its economic boom, it was a poor country. They have made in 20 years what Italy failed to do in 60. At least we have to recognize that they made a good use of the credits, unlike Italy in which corruption and inefficiency made the credits a big waste.
Regarding which model Argentina should follow, I think that each country has its uniqueness. I went in Argentina last time in October, just before the last elections and I found a different country compared to last time in 2003. I have found a new energy and gave me the impression that a new deal is coming. Argentinians should leverage on their creativeness and follow this path of taking ownership of their resources, be really independent from the US and get rid of the italian inheritance in terms of lack of civil education and tendency to corruption. Then they might become strong exporters like Germany (and like they used to be at the beginning of the last century) and a modern, dynamic and warm people like and more than Spain.

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Juergen on April 28, 2008  · 

Great comment giblix. I am German and live in Argentina for the time being. I couldn’t agree more with you on the Argentine independence. A larger portion of responsible leadership would be needed and bottom-to-top democratic model. I tend to agree with you on your Italian influence in the country, though, every culture has its good and bad sides and diversification generally is a good thing.


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gibilix on April 29, 2008  · 

Thank you Juergen,

By saying that there is a strong negative influence by one aspect of the italian inheritance I am not saying that everything is bad in the Italian culture, but at this time the culture of legality, fair trade and efficiency for the wellness of the entire community doesn’t come from the Italian background. On this aspect we probably have to learn a lot from the rest of Europe, but also from emerging countries. As you said… diversification: a good mix of everyone’s best. This is the richness of the countires based on inmigration, a concept that is difficult to understand nowadays in Italy 🙂

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José on May 16, 2008  · 

You are right, Argentine and German People are very, very different (said by an Spaniard living in Germany and very fond of Argentina). I think Argentina has to go his own way, but using their cultural links to Europe.


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