Benefiting from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, a diversified industrial base, and an export-oriented agricultural sector, the economy of Argentina is Latin America’s third-largest, and the second-largest in South America. It has a “very high” rating on the Human Development Index and a relatively high GDP per capita, with considerable internal market size and a growing share of the high-tech sector.
Access to biocapacity in Argentina is much higher than the world average. In 2016, Argentina had 6.8 global hectares of biocapacity per person within its territory, much more than the world average of 1.6 global hectares per person. In 2016 Argentina used 3.4 global hectares of biocapacity per person – their ecological footprint of consumption. This means they use half as much biocapacity as Argentina contains. As a result, Argentina is running a biocapacity reserve.
A middle emerging economy and one of the world’s top developing nations, Argentina is a member of the G-20 major economies. Historically, however, its economic performance has been very uneven, with high economic growth alternating with severe recessions, income maldistribution, and—in the recent decades—increasing poverty. Early in the 20th century Argentina achieved development and became the world’s seventh-richest country. Although managing to keep a place among the top fifteen economies until mid-century, it suffered a long and steady decline, but it is still a high-income country.
High inflation—a weakness of the Argentine economy for decades—has become trouble once again, with an annual rate of 24.8% in 2017. To deter it and support the peso, the government imposed foreign currency control. Income distribution, having improved since 2002, is classified as “medium”, although it is still considerably unequal.
Argentina ranks 85th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index, an improvement of 22 positions over its 2014 rankings. Argentina settled its long-standing debt default crisis in 2016 with the so-called vulture funds after the election of Mauricio Macri, allowing Argentina to enter capital markets for the first time in a decade.
The government of Argentina defaulted on 22 May 2020 by failing to pay a $500 million due date to its creditors. Negotiations for the restructuring of $66 billion of its debt continue.
In 2012 manufacturing accounted for 20.3% of GDP—the largest sector in the nation’s economy. Well-integrated into Argentine agriculture, half of the industrial exports have a rural origin.
With a 6.5% production growth rate in 2011, the diversified manufacturing sector rests on a steadily growing network of industrial parks (314 as of 2013).
In 2012 the leading sectors by volume were: food processing, beverages, and tobacco products; motor vehicles and auto parts; textiles and leather; refinery products and biodiesel; chemicals and pharmaceuticals; steel, aluminum, and iron; industrial and farm machinery; home appliances and furniture; plastics and tires; glass and cement; and recording and print media. In addition, Argentina has since long been one of the top five wine-producing countries in the world. However, it has also been classified as one of the 74 countries where instances of child labor and forced labor have been observed and mentioned in a 2014 report published by the Bureau of International Labor Affairs. The ILAB’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor shows that many of the goods produced by child labor or forced labor come from the agricultural sector.
Córdoba is Argentina’s major industrial center, hosting metalworking, motor vehicle, and auto parts manufacture. Next in importance is the Greater Buenos Aires area (food processing, metallurgy, motor vehicles and auto parts, chemicals and petrochemicals, consumer durables, textiles, and printing); Rosario (food processing, metallurgy, farm machinery, oil refining, chemicals, and tanning); San Miguel de Tucumán (sugar refining); San Lorenzo (chemicals and pharmaceuticals); San Nicolás de Los Arroyos (steel milling and metallurgy); and Ushuaia and Bahía Blanca (oil refining). Other manufacturing enterprises are located in the provinces of Santa Fe (zinc and copper smelting, and flour milling); Mendoza and Neuquén (wineries and fruit processing); Chaco (textiles and sawmills); and Santa Cruz, Salta, and Chubut (oil refining).
The electric output of Argentina in 2009 totaled over 122 TWh (440 PJ), of which about 37% was consumed by industrial activities.
Argentina has the largest railway system in Latin America, with 36,966 km (22,970 mi) of operating lines in 2008, out of a full network of almost 48,000 km (29,826 mi). This system links all 23 provinces plus Buenos Aires City and connects with all neighboring countries. There are four incompatible gauges in use; this forces virtually all interregional freight traffic to pass through Buenos Aires. The system has been in decline since the 1940s: regularly running up large budgetary deficits, by 1991 it was transporting 1,400 times less goods than it did in 1973. However, in recent years the system has experienced a greater degree of investment from the state, in both commuter rail lines and long-distance lines, renewing rolling stock and infrastructure. In April 2015, by an overwhelming majority, the Argentine Senate passed a law which re-created Ferrocarriles Argentinos (2015), effectively re-nationalizing the country’s railways, a move which saw support from all major political parties on both sides of the political spectrum.
By 2004 Buenos Aires, all provincial capitals except Ushuaia, and all medium-sized towns were interconnected by 69,412 km (43,131 mi) of paved roads, out of a total road network of 231,374 km (143,769 mi). Most important cities are linked by a growing number of expressways, including Buenos Aires–La Plata, Rosario–Córdoba, Córdoba–Villa Carlos Paz, Villa Mercedes–Mendoza, National Route 14 General José Gervasio Artigas and Provincial Route 2 Juan Manuel Fangio, among others. Nevertheless, this road infrastructure is still inadequate and cannot handle the sharply growing demand caused by the deterioration of the railway system.
In 2012 there were about 11,000 km (6,835 mi) of waterways, mostly comprising the La Plata, Paraná, Paraguay and Uruguay rivers, with Buenos Aires, Zárate, Campana, Rosario, San Lorenzo, Santa Fe, Barranqueras and San Nicolas de los Arroyos as the main fluvial ports. Some of the largest sea ports are La Plata–Ensenada, Bahía Blanca, Mar del Plata, Quequén–Necochea, Comodoro Rivadavia, Puerto Deseado, Puerto Madryn, Ushuaia and San Antonio Oeste. Buenos Aires has historically been the most important port; however since the 1990s the Up-River port region has become dominant: stretching along 67 km (42 mi) of the Paraná river shore in Santa Fe province, it includes 17 ports and in 2013 accounted for 50% of all exports.
In 2013 there were 161 airports with paved runways out of more than a thousand. The Ezeiza International Airport, about 35 km (22 mi) from downtown Buenos Aires, is the largest in the country, followed by Cataratas del Iguazú in Misiones, and El Plumerillo in Mendoza. Aeroparque, in the city of Buenos Aires, is the most important domestic airport.
Media and communications
The print media industry is highly developed in Argentina, with more than two hundred newspapers. The major national ones include Clarín (centrist, Latin America’s best-seller and the second most widely circulated in the Spanish-speaking world), La Nación (center-right, published since 1870), Página/12 (leftist, founded in 1987), the Buenos Aires Herald (Latin America’s most prestigious English language daily, liberal, dating back to 1876), La Voz del Interior (center, founded in 1904), and the Argentinisches Tageblatt (German weekly, liberal, published since 1878).
Argentina began the world’s first regular radio broadcasting on 27 August 1920, when Richard Wagner’s Parsifal was aired by a team of medical students led by Enrique Telémaco Susini in Buenos Aires’ Teatro Coliseo. By 2002 there were 260 AM and 1150 FM registered radio stations in the country.
The Argentine television industry is large, diverse, and popular across Latin America, with many productions and TV formats having been exported abroad. Since 1999 Argentines enjoy the highest availability of cable and satellite television in Latin America, as of 2014 totaling 87.4% of the country’s households, a rate similar to those in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
By 2011 Argentina also had the highest coverage of networked telecommunications among Latin American powers: about 67% of its population had internet access and 137.2%, mobile phone subscriptions.
Science and technology
Argentines have received three Nobel Prizes in the Sciences. Bernardo Houssay, the first Latin American recipient, discovered the role of pituitary hormones in regulating glucose in animals and shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1947. Luis Leloir discovered how organisms store energy converting glucose into glycogen and the compounds which are fundamental in metabolizing carbohydrates, receiving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1970. César Milstein did extensive research in antibodies, sharing the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1984. Argentine research has led to treatments for heart diseases and several forms of cancer. Domingo Liotta designed and developed the first artificial heart that was successfully implanted in a human being in 1969. René Favaloro developed the techniques and performed the world’s first coronary bypass surgery.
Argentina’s nuclear program has been highly successful. In 1957 Argentina was the first country in Latin America to design and build a research reactor with homegrown technology, the RA-1 Enrico Fermi. This reliance on the development of own nuclear-related technologies, instead of simply buying them abroad, was a constant of Argentina’s nuclear program conducted by the civilian National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA). Nuclear facilities with Argentine technology have been built in Peru, Algeria, Australia, and Egypt. In 1983, the country admitted having the capability of producing weapon-grade uranium, a major step needed to assemble nuclear weapons; since then, however, Argentina has pledged to use nuclear power only for peaceful purposes. As a member of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Argentina has been a strong voice in support of nuclear non-proliferation efforts and is highly committed to global nuclear security. In 1974 it was the first country in Latin America to put in-line a commercial nuclear power plant, Atucha I. Although the Argentine-built parts for that station amounted to 10% of the total, the nuclear fuel it uses is since entirely built in the country. Later nuclear power stations employed a higher percentage of Argentine-built components; Embalse, finished in 1983, a 30% and the 2011 Atucha II reactor a 40%.
Despite its modest budget and numerous setbacks, academics and the sciences in Argentina have enjoyed international respect since the turn of the 1900s, when Luis Agote devised the first safe and effective means of blood transfusion as well as René Favaloro, who was a pioneer in the improvement of the coronary artery bypass surgery. Argentine scientists are still on the cutting edge in fields such as nanotechnology, physics, computer sciences, molecular biology, oncology, ecology, and cardiology. Juan Maldacena, an Argentine-American scientist, is a leading figure in string theory.
Space research has also become increasingly active in Argentina. Argentine-built satellites include LUSAT-1 (1990), Víctor-1 (1996), PEHUENSAT-1 (2007), and those developed by CONAE, the Argentine space agency, of the SAC series. Argentina has its own satellite program, nuclear power station designs (4th generation), and public nuclear energy company INVAP, which provides several countries with nuclear reactors. Established in 1991, the CONAE has since launched two satellites successfully and, in June 2009, secured an agreement with the European Space Agency for the installation of a 35-m diameter antenna and other mission support facilities at the Pierre Auger Observatory, the world’s foremost cosmic ray observatory. The facility will contribute to numerous ESA space probes, as well as CONAE’s own, domestic research projects. Chosen from 20 potential sites and one of only three such ESA installations in the world, the new antenna will create a triangulation that will allow the ESA to ensure mission coverage around the clock.
The country had 5.57 million visitors in 2013, ranking in terms of the international tourist arrivals as the top destination in South America, and second in Latin America after Mexico. Revenues from international tourists reached US$4.41 billion in 2013, down from US$4.89 billion in 2012. The country’s capital city, Buenos Aires, is the most visited city in South America. There are 30 National Parks of Argentina including many World Heritage Sites.