Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
Without enough money to pay all his city employees their regular wages, the mayor of a small town in central Argentina has implemented a money-saving plan that's equal parts desperation and spin. Instead of laying people off or implementing furloughs, the mayor has instituted a weekly raffle wherein the winners receive their pay. The losers receive nothing.
The economy has been declining in the town of Bialet Masse, home to about 5,000 people and a modest tourism industry. Funding from the provincial government has dwindled in recent years as the entire country's economic growth has faltered. With few options at his disposal, Mayor Gustavo Pueyo got creative.
The first raffle took place last Friday, and 23 of the town's 92 employees received their pay, according to Agence France-Presse. Another raffle was scheduled for Monday.
It's unclear whether repeat winners will be allowed, but one could imagine a ruinous spell of bad luck for some employees whose numbers never seem to hit.
Cities all over the world are having trouble making ends meet. Some, like San Bernardino, have declared bankruptcy, while others like Detroit have been kicking the can down the road with last-minute moves to make payroll. Countless government agencies have instituted unpaid furlough days in an effort to trim costs. Few cities have resorted to a raffle, though.
But more could soon follow. Mayor Pueyo says the raffle idea has been approved by national mayoral authorities. And while it's not likely popular with city employees in Bialet Masse, the raffle may be at least a slightly better alternative to no one getting paid at all.
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