It is a privilege for few. In times of scarce reserves in the Central Bank and multiple restrictions in the foreign exchange market, there is still a group of people who each month can make banknote dollars at the official value. In June, according to the latest official data, 885,000 Argentines they bought ‘dollar saving‘.
Altogether, the sales of dollar bills for hoarding accounted for about US$166 millionwhich means an average per individual of US$187.
The successive measures imposed by the BCRA to reinforce the stocks and stop the outflow of foreign currency limited the universe of those who can, each month, enter the bank to buy their US$200 at the ‘solidarity’ value. It is the value of the currency at the official exchange rate, with a 30% surcharge for the COUNTRY tax and 35% on account of income tax.
Among other requirements, the agency prevents those who have received IFE or part of their salary in any delivery of the ATP Program during the pandemic, those who have accessed the dollar MEP or CCL in the previous 90 days, holders of social and monotributist plans who have accessed loans with a subsidized rate.
Thus, access to ‘dollar savings’ was configured in a kind of available privilege for employees who have not received ATP (these are for companies that did not request it) or for public sector employees.
In any case, the current figure is far from its historical maximum. According to BCRA data, In August 2020, some four million Argentines bought a dollar bill for a total of $768 millionin a dynamic that set off all the alarms of the Government.
The reaction of the economic team at that time was a tightening of the trap, which created the 35% surcharge on Profits account and fixed that the consumption with card or services abroad would be considered as part of the quota of US$200 per month.
The record demand for foreign currency for hoarding was not then, but a year ago. According to official data, it was registered in October 2019. With a trap that at that time set a cap of US$10,000, some 2.6 million Argentines they bought US$4.198 million. The government of Mauricio Macri had lost the PASO, and that accelerated the demand for dollars and greater expectations of devaluation.
With reserves in decline and deposits in dollars leaving the system, the outgoing management at that time decided to restrict its stocks, and limited the purchase quota to the current US$200 per month. The following month, the volume plummeted: 1.8 million people bought $101 million.
Since then, restrictions and conditions have been accumulating on the stocks, such as the creation of the PAIS tax, which imposed a 30% surcharge on the purchase of dollars. In December 2019, 2.6 million people bought tickets on the official market, but then that pool dropped to 435,000 people in March ($73 million).
But while the stocks limited the bleeding of dollars, the number of people who each month sought to dollarize their savings did grow, until reaching the peak of August and almost four million people. The new adjustment of the stocks in September (with the aforementioned creation of the 35% surcharge on account of Earnings or Personal Assets) market access plummeted.
After the 3.6 million people in September, nine consecutive months of decline in the number of buyers have accumulated. The data for May 2021 was the floor of the series: only 304,000 Argentines bought dollars, by a total of $56 million ($184 per capita).
The trend was reversed from that month until February 2022. The gradual end of the pandemic, with the elimination of restrictions on activity and the opening of borders, generated an incentive for the demand for banknotes for hoarding, added to a macro factor: the soaring of the blue dollar and the financial exchange rates they left the ‘savings dollar’ as the cheapest exchange rate on the market.
In this scenario, the universe of buyers of dollar bill to the official grew again steadily for nine consecutive monthsuntil it exceeded one million buyers again in February (US$186 million, around US$186 per capita). While many sought the US bill as an instrument to protect savings, others took advantage of the gap with the official to revive the ‘mashed dollar’ (buy the official, sell in the blue) to try to make a profit in pesos.