March 29, 2000

Government says 1 in 3 Argentines live in poverty

                  BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) -- One in three Argentines live below the
                  poverty line, and more than 11 percent of the nation's 36 million people cannot
                  meet their basic food needs, according to a study obtained by Reuters on

                  Thirty-seven percent of Argentines, or 27.7 percent of four-member households,
                  live below the poverty line. Eight percent of homes -- or 11.8 percent of the
                  people -- cannot meet their basic food needs, according to the study by the
                  government's Social Development Ministry.

                  The poverty line in the greater Buenos Aires area for a family of four is $490 a
                  month, and the threshold drops by about 20 percent in northern Argentina,
                  poverty consultant Artemio Lopez said.

                  Government officials were not available for comment on the study.

                  Argentina is by far the wealthiest nation in Latin America, with a per capita gross
                  national product of almost $9,000 in 1998. That was only about 20 percent
                  lower than the poorest member of the European Union, Portugal, and $1,000
                  more than South Korea, according to World Bank figures.

                  Still, the gap between rich and poor in Latin America's third-largest economy is
                  yawning. Today, 27.6 percent of people living in Formosa -- the capital of the
                  province bearing the same name, about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) northeast of
                  Buenos Aires, are not able to meet their basic food needs, the study found.

                  "There are two reasons for this level of poverty: chronically high unemployment,
                  which today is around 14 percent, and steadily declining salaries. We've got 15.3
                  percent of Argentine workers earning less than $200 a month," said Lopez,
                  director of local consulting firm Equis.

                  During the past 25 years, which began with a military coup, Argentina's
                  economy has experienced hyperinflation and free-market reforms. However, the
                  poorest 20 percent live on $2 a day, an Equis study in February found.

                  "Half of the 10 million kids under 14 years of age live below the poverty line,"
                  Lopez added.

                  The government study found Argentina's northeastern subtropical jungle region
                  to be the poorest with 60 percent of people living below the poverty line and 24.1
                  percent not able to feed themselves properly.

                  The arid, mountainous northwestern region was next with 53.6 percent of people
                  below the poverty line and 19.1 percent unable to meet their basic food needs.

                  Even in the Greater Buenos Aires region some 29.8 percent of people live under
                  the poverty line and 9.3 percent cannot feed themselves adequately.

                  "If the employment situation improved, you would still need salaries to improve.
                  A study I did in January of 8 million workers found 38 percent work in the black
                  market, and in the northeast and northwest it's as much as 60 percent," Lopez
                  said, adding that people working off the payroll earn less.