A fatal train crash near Buenos Aires has killed 50 people and injured more than 700, drawing attention to the disastrous conditions of some of Argentina’s train lines, which benefit from generous concessions from the government.Public largesse, which amounts to some 4 percent of GDP in subsidies to Argentine services, transport and utility companies, has produced a terrible track record. Last week’s train crash is the seventh to strike the country in the past 14 months, and even Buenos Aires is pockmarked by crumbling infrastructure. As the WSJ reports, inefficiency and graft run rampant:
Critics complain there is no transparency in the subsidy system, and little incentive for the politically connected operators to invest in infrastructure, because they earn their money from the government rather than from Argentines who use their services. “This government has decided to pay millions in subsidies in a system where there are no contracts, no tariffs, no controls,” Juan Pedro Tunessi, a congressman with the opposition Radical Party, told reporters.
This is a classic Argentine pattern. Populism, cronyism, rising subsidies, falling services. One hopes that rabble-rousing speeches on the Falklands won’t save Kirchner from the public backlash this latest crash has richly earned.