Argentina declares 'national statistical emergency'

Buenos Aires (AFP) –


Argentina declared a "national statistical emergency" Wednesday, saying it will stop releasing data on the economy until the government statistics agency is overhauled and its numbers can be trusted.

The move is conservative President Mauricio Macri's latest assault on the economic policies of his left-wing predecessor Cristina Kirchner, whose administration he says practised dodgy number-crunching for years.

The National Statistics and Census Institute (INDEC) will suspend publication of official data on gross domestic product, inflation and poverty, said Jorge Todesca, its new director.

Macri's government said the problem has become so bad that it amounts to a national emergency.

"INDEC was used to lie scandalously to the nation," said Finance Minister Alfonso Prat Gay, who vowed to "get back the truth."

Todesca had said two weeks ago that publication of GDP, inflation and poverty statistics would be suspended, but Wednesday's government decree makes the decision official.

The International Monetary Fund censured Argentina in 2013 for the large gap between its official economic data and independent estimates.

The country unveiled a new IMF-approved methodology for calculating inflation the following year, but the gap persisted.

Todesca himself came up with numbers that differed wildly from the government's when he was head of a private consulting firm.

For example, he calculated 2014 inflation at 25 percent, versus the 14.3 percent claimed by INDEC.

Other independent analysts arrived at similar figures.

The government also announced the end of a policy that encouraged Argentines to repatriate overseas savings by offering them real estate and energy bonds.

The policy aimed to shore up plunging foreign exchange reserves, but raised concerns it could be used to launder money and dodge taxes.

Macri, who has vowed to get Argentina's slumping economy back on track with business-friendly government, has steadily hacked away at Kirchner's legacy since taking office on December 10.

In his first week, he scrapped the official exchange rate, prompting a sharp devaluation of the peso, as well as axing heavy export taxes.