The government was dealt a heavy blow on Thursday, after the INDEC national statistics bureau released data indicating that Argentina's poverty rate at the end of 2018 had risen to 32 percent, with 6.7 percent of the population now considered to be living in extreme poverty.
Facing the press after the release of the numbers, senior Cambiemos officials said it was a “sad day.”
“Poverty hurts and today is a sad day, as it was yesterday and as it was a year ago,” said Health and Social Development Minister Carolina Stanley, saying that Argentina was in the “tail of a crisis.”
"In the government we thought we could lower inflation faster, and clearly, inflation impacts the poverty figure," she added, flanked by Production and Labour Minister Dante Sica.
Inflation in Argentina totalled 47.6 percent in 2018 and President Macri's government has failed to halt price increases.
"We reiterate that we will continue to prioritise the reduction of poverty, we will continue to support food programmes, we will continue to build sewers and carry drinking water," Stanley told a press conference, arguing that poverty was more than just a household's income, which is how INDEC's data is measured.
"The national government works on the subject of the poverty from each ministry and considers poverty in all its dimensions," she added.
The minister emphasised, however, that the pressure on the national government was a result of having accurate data. Cambiemos had “decided to tell the truth and talk about the issue,” the minister said – a reference to the massaging of data that took place at INDEC under the previous government led by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Stanley was quizzed, in addition, about President Mauricio Macri’s famous ‘pobreza cero’ (“zero poverty”) pledge he delivered during campaigning ahead of the 2015 election. The minister argued the phrase was not a promise, but rather an aspirational target.
“Zero poverty, beyond having mentioned it in the campaign, has to do having with an objective, a horizon, a way of working," she explained.
"Today, we can say that Argentina is at a better point than in 2015. Better doesn't mean that we are where we want to be, but that we have got out of the plight we were in," the president said during a speech.
Addressing poverty and the economy, he declared: "To change the situation that many Argentines are suffering poverty, we must reduce the fiscal deficit -- the true cause of inflation and poverty."