Monday, May 02, 2005

Smithsonian Institution please take note

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) - Three years after staging the largest debt default in modern history, Argentina Thursday opened what may be the first Museum of Foreign Debt to teach people the perils of borrowing abroad.

The subject is heavy, but the museum's creators have tried to make the mood light and the displays accessible to everyone, especially schoolchildren.

In one corner, a pink, doll-size play kitchen represents the recipes of the International Monetary Fund, which Argentines blame for encouraging the heavy borrowing in the 1990s that led to the catastrophic economic collapse in late 2001.

"We chose a play kitchen because we are always so innocent and believe in magic recipes from abroad," said museum designer Eduardo Lopez. "Look, we open the freezer and the oven and there is no food."

But the museum in the University of Buenos Aires economics department doesn't dwell only on this latest debt crisis: It goes back to Argentina's first default in the early 1800s and gives a detailed account of the last 30 years when the country's foreign debt woes snowballed.

Visitors can delve into a spongy "black hole" -- the place where all that borrowed money ended up.

"I liked best the black hole with everything the debt swallowed -- education, families, jobs," said Fabian Jader, 34, an opening night visitor. "I feel anger and pity for the people, but above all helplessness.

No comments: