Watching the world go by

In 2006 I sat in a cafe in Recoleta, Buenos Aires and watched the world go by.

Chanel sunglasses walked alongside Ralph Lauren Polo shirts. The sun shone on well-groomed poodles following Armarni jeans into high-end shops.

Yesterday I sat in a cafe on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch. Outside the world went by.

Ray-Ban sunglasses walked alongside Superdry polo shirts. The sun shone on well-groomed sausage dogs following Diesel jeans into boutique shops.

Between 1999 and 2002 Argentina's economy fell off a cliff. The government defaulted on its national debt. The size of the economy fell by more than a quarter. The countries Peronist - populist - leaders drove the country off a cliff and it was ordinary people who paid the price.

Sitting in Ricoletta in 2006 there is no way you could have known.

For decades Argentina's political leaders promised its people easy answers. More government spending, less taxes, import controls, export controls, foreign exchange controls, jingoistic nationalism, you name it.

Eventually the easy answers ran out of road.

At the start of the twentieth century, Argentina was one of the richest - if not the richest - country in the world. By the end of the century it was bankrupt, thread-bare, and far too many of its people lived in abject poverty. Little has changed today.

Argentina's political leaders told its people that they were special. That the rest of the world was against them. That the promised land was coming. It never came.

Throughout all this the people of Ricoletta kept shopping. Their cloistered, privileged lives remained intact while their country was turned upside down.

Yesterday on Redchruch Street the shops were still busy. The sun kept shining. And today’s turning world remained comfortably out of view.

Things that might make the world better

Things that might make the world better