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19/04/2007 | Argentina names new head of Statistics Agency

Reuters Staff

Argentina named on Wednesday a new head of its troubled statistics agency, as the government tries to restore credibility to its inflation data, which has been under a cloud since January.

 

The former head of the National Statistics Institute quit in March following accusations of government interference with inflation data, and an interim head has been serving since then.

Economy Minister Felisa Miceli named Alejandro Barrios, an economist who has worked at INDEC since 1998, to lead the agency. Barrios is also a professor at the University of Buenos Aires.

"The minister has set a 30-day objective for the new authorities to outline a strategic plan to improve INDEC's work," the Economy Ministry said in a news release.

The ministry also said it will invest in more efficient technology for the INDEC and contract local and international advisors for the agency.

INDEC's reputation came into question in January when the government removed the head of the area that measures inflation and replaced her with a former Miceli advisor. Later, analysts and economists said the health and tourism ingredients of January inflation data were understated.

Government officials have repeatedly denied there has been any manipulation of inflation data. But doubts lingered as union workers at INDEC protested and went on strike, claiming their data gathering techniques have been tampered with.

With economic growth booming at a rate of more than 8 percent for four years in a row, President Nestor Kirchner's major headache has become inflation, which was just under 10 percent last year, but was over 12 percent a year earlier.

The inflation number is key for determining how much Argentina pays to holders of inflation-linked bonds and is important in setting a floor for annual wage negotiations. It also affects official poverty measurements.

As Kirchner's price control agreements with businesses began to lose effect, many analysts and economists said the intervention in INDEC was his latest attempt to stem inflation.

Last week Argentina revised its March figure for the price of the basic food basket, saying it feel rather than rose sharply.

Some INDEC workers said the rise originally reported was correct and was based on traditional methods, whereas the revised figure included a greater weighting for price-controlled products. But the government defended the revision, saying the claims of intervention were fantasy.

Reuters (Estados Unidos)

 


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