$17 billion a year is spent on food plans - IDESA

Report Nº: 84609/02/2020

$17 billion a year is spent on food plans

Since the 2002 crisis, the federal government has been allocating a significant amount of resources to food plans, without any positive result. The Argentine Plan Against Hunger is not original in any form. That’s why it is guaranteed to fail beyond the political gains its executors may capitalize on. The National Ministry of Social Development […]

The National Ministry of Social Development began to implement The Argentina Plan Against Hunger. This is a national program in which the government issues a debit card that can only be used to buy food and cleaning stuff. The cards are received by pregnant women from the 3rd month and families with children up to 6 years old who are receiving the Asignación Universal Por Hijo or Universal Allowance per Child (AUH). The allocation is AR$4,000 per month for families with one child and AR$6,000 per month for families with two or more children.

Also, the government plans to promote the social economy and family agriculture so that the most vulnerable families have tools for their own food sustenance. There are also plans to create “Community Promoters of Food and Nutritional Security” who will be responsible for monitoring children’s height and weight, coordinating food policies with health, maternal and child policies, and strengthening school and community canteens.

The deep social crisis obviously generates full acceptance of this initiative. However, there are no assessments about the plan’s possible effectiveness. Thus it is relevant to analyze the actions the Ministry of Social Development is taking for hunger control. According to the Ministry’s budget, it can be seen that:

  • In 2002, federal food plans gained momentum with a budget of $14 billion per year at current prices.
  • In 2019 the federal food plans still had a budget of $13 billion per year.
  • Between 2002 and 2019, the annual average for federal food plans has remained in the order of $17 billion per year at current prices.

These data show that the Argentine Plan Against Hunger is not original at all. Since the 2002 crisis that a large and stable budget is being allocated to hunger plans, with implementation mechanisms very similar to the announced program. The failure of this strategy for almost 20 years is a clear indication that, with this new plan, food and nutritional security will persist as a pending issue.

The failure is explained by the proliferation of programs that seek to assist the same poor people through separate channels. The new plan is an extreme example of this irrationality. The beneficiaries of the new plan already have a bank account where they receive the AUH. Instead of depositing the money in that same account and restricting its use to food, it was decided to give them another bank account. This shows both contempt for the people (forced to make new office paperwork) and for the care of public funds (creating extra administrative expenses). But most significantly, it shows that the executors’ priority is not the fight against hunger, but political gains. Proof of this is that, in order to hand over the new card, people are called to form lines in places marked with political banners, which identify the politician who is giving the gift.

Social assistance in Argentina is more oriented to generating political capital for its implementers than to solve the problems of the poor. When the federal welfare programs are added to provincial and municipal ones, there can be more than a hundred, depending on the region. With such overlap of welfare plans, responsibilities are diluted. An enormous mass of public resources is allocated to poverty alleviation, but hunger remains, and it is not known who is responsible: the federal government, the provinces, the municipalities, all, none.

Poverty and hunger respond to multiple factors. One of them is the proliferation of welfare programs, to which the Argentine Plan Against Hunger is now added, designed, and executed in a rudimentary and opportunistic manner. The broad call of the new government to make visible the hunger problem will be squandered with political tools that have already proven to serve spurious interests but not to dignify the poor people


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