Felix Salmon

Argentina’s pollsters

By Felix Salmon
August 18, 2009

I just got a rather hilarious phone call from Brand Democracy (specialists in “psychographic segmentation studies”), a UK company interviewing “CEOs, businessmen, and key opinion formers” on the subject of their opinion of Argentina; their client is the Argentine secretariat of tourism. It’s a slow news day, so I played along; Unicef got a donation at the end. And what fascinated me most was that after a couple of pro-forma questions about visiting Argentina at the beginning, the bulk of the interview was all about my opinion of doing business in Argentina.

How easy, on a scale from one to 10, did I think it was to do business in Argentina? Would it change my mind if we told you that Amnesty International says that Argentina has a better human rights record than the US? Or if we told you that Buenos Aires has only one-tenth the homicide rate of Rio de Janeiro? How attractive do I think Argentina is now, as a place to do business? What if we told you that it’s the eighth-biggest land mass in the world, just after India, and its economy has been growing fast since it defaulted in 2001? Now how attractive do I think Argentina is as a place to do business?

I fear the Argentine secretariat of tourism won’t be too happy with my answers: the country bumped along at a 3/10 no matter how many times they asked the question, and when they asked for the single best reason to do business in Argentina, I couldn’t think of one. But I am fascinated that the tourism ministry, of all people, has given Brand Democracy the mandate (and the money) to do this survey.

Why should that be the case? The best reason that I can come up with is that Argentina thinks it needs some a serious boost to its touristic infrastructure, and is looking for external investment on that front. It is after all a gorgeous country with great wine country and a beautiful and sophisticated capital city; it’s also the main port of exit for anybody going to Antarctica. So it should by rights get more tourist traffic than it does. Maybe this is all part of an attempt to get the big international tourism-industry companies to start investing much more heavily in Argentina.

Of course, there are other reasons why the tourism minister might award a large contract to a foreign media company. But those aren’t the kind of reasons which make doing business in Argentina any more attractive.

9 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

My girlfriend immigrated to Canada from Buenos Aires around 5 years ago. She comes from a privileged background (private school, good neighbourhood, lots of connections, etc.) but she couldn’t figure out any decent future there. The nasty interplay of cronyism, populist politics, crime, corruption and bad economics is deeply rooted in every aspect of life. It seems nothing has changed since the crisis in 2001, I don’t know what it’s going to take for things to change…

But hey it remains a superb place to visit and I’m looking forward to a great trip there next week!

Posted by Guillaume | Report as abusive

Sounds like a push poll, in which the intent is to alter rather than assess the individual’s perception.


Posted by BillF | Report as abusive

I’m argentinian, from a good backround too, and I have future in my country. I work for an international consulting enterprise and i have a lot of benefits.
All my friends (I’m 26) with an university degree have very good jobs.
I know that we are not a developed country, but it is a very good country to live.

Posted by Guido | Report as abusive

also missspent preaching to the converted (albeit to another creed), who described the 2001 argie crisis as:

Prostitution and bondage, then the workers united and threw off their chains. You want a bit more detail? Well, for most of the 1990s Argentina was run by a corrupt pimp called Charlie who slapped the country around a bit, acted like a big shot, and had the population eating out of the palm of his hand, largely oblivious to the fact that they were being utterly fucked. The fucker-in-chief was a bald chap called Mingo who started off nice (taming inflation) but soon started borrowing money like there was no tomorrow, at the same time as tying the economy up in extremely restrictive ropes. Then tomorrow came, the debts started coming due, and Argentines, tied up and fucked over, paid an enormous price. The riots were basically the point at which they woke up and realised they’d been governed by a bunch of incompetents, and decided to kick the fuckers out.

to conclude:

Not that it did them any real good, of course.


to güido (6.14 pm)
if you’re grammar is so f*cked up that you use crummy double adjectivation to describe yourself as “argentinian” not argentine, the consultancy firm that pays you must be a Krony capitalism money laundering joint


mangy cat, if your evidence for accusing guido of money laundering is his faulty grammar, you might stop to consider that English is not the mother tongue of Argentina.

Posted by jonny | Report as abusive

mangy cat, la respuesta que te debería haber dado guido es quién mierda te crees?

un abrazo,


ps: no entendés lo que te dije? seguramente no fuiste a una escuela privada…

Posted by sebastian | Report as abusive

en criollo: yo no soy argentiniano ¿y vos?


I have recently moved to Argentina and believe there a huge amount of potential here. Due to the well educated population, low labor costs, similar time zones to the US, and the easily integrated western culture, companies are looking to Argentina as a destination to set up call centers and other outsourcing businesses. These companies provide employment to large numbers and in the long term invest capital into the country. I don’t know why anyone would say that there is not future here.


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