New head of Argentina’s statistics agency pledges to recruit ‘trustworthy people’

By on 21/12/2015
Jorge Todesca

The newly appointed head of Argentina’s official statistics office has pledged to revamp the organisation and hire “trustworthy people” in a bid to improve the agency’s reputation.

For years, data produced by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos de la República Argentina (INDEC) – the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Argentina – has been widely seen as inaccurate and politically motivated.

But Argentina’s new president Mauricio Macri, who was sworn in earlier this month, wants to restore confidence in Latin America’s third-largest economy including by ensuring official data on the state of the economy is reliable.

INDEC director Jorge Todesca said recently that many officials at INDEC had resigned in the wake of the election last month that brought the conservative Macri to power and that the much-maligned statistics office will take months to revamp, according to Reuters news agency.

It will “take some time to put the trustworthy people” in place at INDEC, he said, adding that there is a bill to make the institution autonomous.

And last week, he told Radio Mitre that his organisation will publish a new interim consumer price index in a bid to produce credible data. “I think that in two weeks, we should have a provisional [consumer price] index. Credible, but provisional.”

“There is a widespread state of chaos in the statistical bases,” he said, adding that INDEC is working to produce updates to gross domestic product, trade, unemployment and poverty data.

Consumer prices data has shown the official inflation reading at about half the rate estimated privately, Reuters reports.

Critics said the prior government of two-term President Cristina Fernandez massaged the data to reduce payments on its inflation-indexed debt load and rein in inflation expectations.

The latest official data available reported annual inflation in October of 14.3 percent. But data compiled from private estimates and published by lawmakers in Argentina’s Congress have put it at 25.0 percent.

Introducing Todesca at the ministerial swearing-in ceremony earlier this month, newly appointed finance minister Alfonso Prat-Gay said: “We are always going to tell the truth. Sometimes it’s going to hurt and sometimes it’s going to go against our own interests.”

Macri – the first centre-right leader to come to power since Argentina returned to democracy in 1983 – had run under the banner of Cambiemos (“Let’s Change”) with a coalition of mostly centrist non-Peronist parties.

The mayor of the city of Buenos Aires has promised free-market solutions to Argentina’s long list of economic woes, in contrast to his predecessor, Fernandez, who believed in heavy state control of the economy.

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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