News Analysis

Saturday 25 March 2017

The middle classes were begging for food in the street

In the week Michael Noonan warned about the apocalyptic effect of default, two Argentinians recall what it was like for them 10 years ago

Caitriona Palmer

The elegant woman at the front door wore a fur coat and coiffed hair -- but she was not calling to invite her neighbours to a dinner party. This was Buenos Aires 2001 and Elsa Gutman -- a member of the once burgeoning middle class -- was knocking to see if the occupants of a nearby house needed any DIY or plumbing repairs.

Peddling her husband's handyman skills -- he had lost his job in a bank the previous year -- was the only way for this former teacher to pay her bills and survive: a predicament once thought impossible for urbane elite of the city known as 'the Paris of South America'.

This week, Finance Minister Michael Noonan forecast that the Irish middle class could suffer a fate similar to the Argentinian middle class of 2001 if Ireland defaulted on its massive debt.

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