Economist magazine drops official Argentine inflation figures

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

The Economist magazine has ceased publishing price statistics provided by Argentina’s national statistical agency INDEC, on the grounds that these official figures are subject to political manipulation and lack credibility.
 
The exclusion reflects widely-held concern both inside and outside Argentina that INDEC’s figures understate dramatically the real rate of inflation. For instance, while INDEC’s current figure for inflation is 9.7%, independent observers put the true figure at between 24-30%.
 
In place of INDEC’s figures, the Economist – which publishes more than 1,000 indices every week – will use inflation figures compiled by PriceStats, a private US research organisation. PriceStats monitors online prices of about five million products including  food and beverages, clothing, toiletries and household goods, electronics, energy and housing.
 
While acknowledging that Pricestats data may not reflect consumption habits of less-well off Argentinians, the Economist says the figures are “tamper-proof” and based on peer-reviewed research techniques.
 
In a comment piece entitled Don’t lie to me, Argentina, the Economist said that INDEC’s figures, which cover capital city Buenos Aires only, appeared to be a mix of “tweaking, sophistry and sheer invention”.
 
Since 2007, Argentine trade secretary Guillermo Moreno had pressured INDEC to conceal the true extent of price rises, it said. The Economist cited Moreno’s attempt to get INDEC to omit decimal points rather than rounding its monthly price figures and subsequent sacking of the agency’s Consumer Price Index director Graciela Bevacqua.
 
The government is also reported to have sought to silence independent economists intending to publish alternate data with threats of fines and prosecution.
 
The Economist highlighted the American Statistical Association’s efforts to support of Argentine colleagues responsible for official statistics. The ASA’s letter to the UN (pdf format, opens in new window) drew “attention to the continuing and escalating attacks by the Government of Argentina directed against a group of statisticians and allied professionals contrary to international law” and appealed for protection for both the statisticians, and “the data users and the civil society that these statisticians are attempting to serve”.
 
Reflecting upon the importance of accurate official figures, China’s numbers could be untrustworthy and Greece’s suppression of the true scale of its deficit had resulted in “disastrous consequences”, said the Economist. INDEC should be run by “independent statisticians working unhindered” it concluded. Until that is the case, it determined to provide readers with a believable unofficial figure rather than an untrustworthy official one.
 

Inflation

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