Argentine inflation hike no surprise to consumers
Demonstrators gather in front of the headquarters of the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INDEC), in Buenos Aires, on February 13, 2014, the day the inflation rate of January under a new measurement system was to be disclosed - by Daniel Garcia
Like many Argentines, the 23-year-old low income worker is concerned about the widespread inflation that has taken root since the beginning of the year.
On Thursday, under pressure from the IMF, Argentina introduced a new way to measure inflation, which confirmed what most consumers already knew.
And Argentina's sharp devaluation of its currency in January will only fuel the nation's already sky-high inflation.
"You feel it at the supermarket. I stopped buying chicken and beef when prices climbed a lot. A box of powdered milk for my child climbed from 45 to 55 pesos ($5.8 to $7.0)," Alonso said.
Beef, an Argentine staple renowned for its quality, is now a luxury in many homes after prices for the most popular cuts jumped up to 23 percent since the beginning of the year alone.
"Everything is going up, but not our salaries," added the waitress, as she walked with her four-year-old daughter Martina in downtown Buenos Aires.
Over the past two years, independent private sector economists have estimated Argentina's annual inflation at more than 25 percent, compared to the government's figure of around 10 percent.
In 2012, the International Monetary Fund warned Argentina over its failure to provide regular data on inflation and economic growth through measures that meet the Fund's standards.
Economy Minister Axel Kicillof unveiled a new measure this week, and confirmed that inflation was a sky-high 3.7 percent for the month of January alone.
But this would have come as no surprise to Laura Martinez, 44, who is confronted by inflation every time she fills a monthly prescription for her nine-year-old daughter.
"What? 600 pesos? Last month, I paid 530 pesos. I'll buy it anyways; at any rate, I don't have a choice," she exclaimed in the pharmacy.
The prescription's price rose in the last month from 1,770 pesos to 2,000 pesos, but her insurance pays for 70 percent of the cost.
Martinez also lamented having paid 165 pesos for a visit to the dentist, which formerly cost only 110 pesos.
- Fighting cheese theft -
In some supermarkets, basic consumer goods whose prices have surged -- like tuna or grated cheese -- are protected by anti-theft devices.
Imported products in particular have been hit hard by last month's de facto devaluation, when the government allowed the official dollar exchange rate to move closer to the blackmarket one.
Romina Ferre, for example, has stopped buying the Scotch whiskey her husband loves.
For several weeks, President Cristina Kirchner has pointed a blaming finger at distributors and stores for price hikes.
The center-left leader accuses financial markets of destabilizing the government and businesspeople of price gouging.
"They wanted the government to crumble but in reality they were destroying Argentina, and when that happens jobs, savings, and businesses crumble," she said last week.
Economists have advised Kirchner to reduce the budget deficit, currently at five percent of GDP, and to limit wage increases and social welfare.
But Gerardo Felippini, 52, who started building his house in the middle of the crisis, doesn't understand how a bag of cement made domestically can cost 55 pesos one day and 85 the next.
An employee at a large pharmacy chain estimated that the price of drugs has climbed 30 percent.
"A nebulizer for asthma, which cost 500 pesos last week is 800 pesos today. A mosquito repellent worth 40 pesos sells today for 75," she said.
"But what can you do? People can't stop buying medicine. It's a matter of life or death."