Shortages and Stockpiling: Coins in Argentina, Diamonds ("Pieces of Carbon") in Russia
1. Where are Argentina's coins?
A serious shortage of coins in Argentina causes problems for consumers and merchants. The coin scarcity has created a strange predicament: Merchants regularly refuse to sell their goods or services if it means they’ll have to give coins back as change. For small transactions, they’d rather lose the revenue than spare the change.
Russia quietly passed a milestone this year: surpassing De Beers as the world’s largest diamond producer. But the global market for diamonds is so dismal that the Alrosa diamond company, 90 percent owned by the Russian government, has not sold a rough stone on the open market since December, and has stockpiled them instead.
As a result, Russia has become the arbiter of global diamond prices. Its decisions on production and sales will determine the value of diamonds on rings and in jewelry stores for years to come, in one of the most surprising consequences of this recession.
Though it is a major commodity producer, Russia has traditionally not embraced policies that artificially keep prices up. In oil, for example, Russia benefits from the oil cartel’s cuts in production, but does not participate in them. Diamonds are an exception. “If you don’t support the price,” Andrei V. Polyakov, a spokesman for Alrosa, said, “a diamond becomes a mere piece of carbon.”