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Patacombos for the PIIGS!

Thursday, 16 February, 2012

Because the PIIGS are prevented from getting their grubby trotters on the printing presses by the European Central Bank, all they can do is stand idly, impotently by as money flows out of their economies and into more stable havens. This is exactly how it was in Argentina a decade ago except that Buenos Aires proved more imaginative when faced with this dilemma. The Argentine treasury began issuing a raft of IOUs with exotic names: lecops, porteños, quebrachos and patacones, for example. These were greeted with disdain by the global money markets, but McDonald’s, that beacon of capitalism and proletarian cuisine, was more humane:

“The Buenos Aires outlet of burger behemoth McDonald’s is preparing to accept one-year bonds in payment for food, as a cash crisis grips the Argentine economy tighter with the continued lack of conclusion to talks between the country and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The bonds, nicknamed patacones after a currency that became defunct 120 years ago, will be issued as part-payment of wages for the 150,000 state workers in Buenos Aires who earn more than US$740 a month… McDonald’s has launched a special new meal deal called the ‘Patacombo’, consisting of two cheeseburgers, French fries and a drink.”

In the end, the patacones didn’t do the business and at the beginning of 2002 Argentina defaulted on its international debt. The peso’s 11 year-old tie to the US dollar was rescinded and the country was plunged into an enormous financial and socio-economic crisis. Unemployment rose to 25 per cent and wages dropped to their lowest level in 60 years. Moral of story: PIIGS should think carefully about how they intend to pay for their Patacombos, or else change their diet.


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