Argentina gives economics ministry more say on statistics

July 22, 2009

Argentine Economy Minister Amado Boudou BUENOS AIRES, July 21 (Reuters) – Argentina’s economy ministry will have increased control over the national statistics agency, the government said on Tuesday in a bid to restore credibility to the country’s consumer price data.
But Economy Minister Amado Boudou told reporters he is not planning to replace the current price index, which the government is accused of massaging for political gain to save money on debt payments.

About 40 percent of Argentine sovereign bonds are inflation-indexed.
“We do not see it as a reform. We see it as a strengthening of an organism surrounded in controversy, which must be made to stop,” Boudou told reporters at a late-night news conference.

The plan allows the statistics agency to report directly to the economy ministry and orders the creation of an academic council, made up of representatives from at least three public universities, which will be responsible for reviewing data.

It also sets the stage for a revision of indicators reported by the agency since 1999.
The changes are unlikely to satisfy financial markets, which have been hoping for clear signs of a change in government economic policy since Argentine President Cristina Fernandez suffered a stinging defeat in a mid-term election last month.

Boudou, who was previously head of the state pensions agency, was named after the election, but has so far not implemented new measures or named his policy team. He has indicated that controversial Domestic Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno will stay on.

Moreno is the chief enforcer of the government’s unorthodox anti-inflation policies and he is widely seen as masterminding the manipulation of economic data.
Also on Tuesday, Boudou said Argentina will seek to swap and buy back the inflation-indexed bonds, known as CER.
(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin and Damian Wroclavsky; Writing by Helen Popper and Dana Ford; Editing by Diane Craft)

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