The mystery of full restaurants | Oddities of consumption in an ultra-inflationary economy

The Argentine economy, which is facing a serious problem of inflation and income distribution with a direct effect on the middle and lower sectors, shows at the same time curious postcards that seem to go in a line contrary to the loss of purchasing power of wages and the march of prices. The reference is for the consideration that consumers have about the possibility of buying durable goods and the phenomenon of the boom of full restaurants and reservations taken only until certain hours. The Ecolatina consultancy carried out an analysis of both contexts to conclude that, in the case of gastronomic establishments, the Federal Capital (the most important pole in volume in the entire country), already has sales above 2015 and has recovered strongly from the pandemic. While with the dollar showing no signs of slowing down, durables seem to be a still powerful option to store value for sectors with recorded income.

Santiago Manoukian, an economist at Ecolatina who analyzed these data, was asked a few days ago by a foreign media outlet how it is that in this scenario of rising prices and falling purchasing power of wages, there is a phenomenon of sustained consumption. They wanted to know how to explain a symptom that, for the specialist, “responds to an emotional question as well as economics.” People, according to Manoukian, have a kind of “revenge consumption, which is an argument for delayed consumption, but it is also wanting to experience things that have been suspended for a long time due to the pandemic.” The reference is for the behavior of diners in restaurants in the Capital after years in which COVID 19 restricted the possibility of meetings in public places.

The consulting firm Ecolatina calculated, based on March 100, 2015, that sales in traditional restaurants in the City of Buenos Aires are already at a level higher than 161, the highest in seven years. Phenomenon that occurs after the collapse of the pandemic, which generated closures and suspensions, and also above the numbers of the entire Mauricio Macri administration, which had a base of 140 or below. “It’s a subject that we discuss a lot and we hope to see the numbers from all over the country, but in CABA the level of sales in restaurants is very important.” Another oddity of the case is that going out to eat is not a cheap tour, but rather a very important expenditure in the country of the minimum wage of less than 50 thousand pesos.

The economist affirmed, in this context, that as Keynes said, the formation of the economist must be comprehensive, philosophical and political. He applies the concept to explain this scenario, which exceeds the economic. Something similar, but more logical and justifiable, occurs with the perception of buying durable goods. Ecolatina took data from the Di Tella University to conclude that based on January 100, 2020, that is, the pre-pandemic, there was an 80 percent growth in the perception of durable purchases. That figure, which is equivalent to a base 180 against the 100 of January 20, is also the highest number since the beginning of 2018, a period prior to the devaluations and debt crisis of the macrismo. “The point there -said Manoukian- is that an incentive scheme was recreated that leads you to advance consumption, in addition to having negative real rates and financing such as My Moto and Now 12”. The economist also added that everything occurs “in a context where there are stocks and you cannot buy dollars and there are expectations of devaluation.” Another rarity of durable goods: prices in the first fortnight of the month were among those that rose the most, and even so the idea of ​​convenience is sustained.

One last fact that stands out from the general phenomenon is that “wages within formality, in the first part of the year, were more protected and helped you maintain stabilized consumption.” That, for the specialist, is what guarantees that for now a marked collapse in household spending is not seen.

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