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According to a new report released this past weekend by the Social Debt Observatory of the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA), poverty in the country reached a multi-year high in January as a result of the tough economic measures implemented by the recently inaugurated President Javier Milei.

Data shows that last month’s national poverty rate increased to 57.4%, the highest level since 2004, up from 44.7% in the third quarter of 2023—prior to Milei’s election.

The newly elected Argentine president has implemented a series of “shock therapy” policies, which include a 50% devaluation of the peso in relation to the US dollar and a 133% increase in the main interest rate, with the goal of stabilizing the country’s faltering economy. Prices for consumers have increased as a result of the actions. Official data earlier this month indicated that January saw a three-decade high of 254% for annual inflation in Argentina. Poverty levels were subsequently made worse by the subsequent collapse of household earnings and significant reductions in consumer purchasing power.

According to the research, low-skilled workers and middle-class households without access to social services saw the biggest increases in poverty. Per the available data, the proportion of Argentinians who are deemed “destitute” increased from 9.6% in the third quarter of the previous year to 15% in January.

Agustin Salvia, the head of the UCA’s Social Debt Observatory, in a statement to the news site La Nacion, cautioned that things will probably get worse before they get better even if he doesn’t think poverty rates will rise much more.

He said, “In February and March the situation will tend to worsen, but poverty will find a ceiling of around 60%. There is an expectation that it will tend to improve in two or three months.”

Milei promised that additional measures will alleviate the nation’s problems in a social media post on Saturday in response to the UCA report.

In the post he wrote, “The true inheritance of the caste model: 6 out of every 10 Argentines are poor. The destruction of the last hundred years is unparalleled in Western history. Politicians have to understand that people voted for change and that we are going to give our lives to bring it about.”

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