The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Argentina's Government Statistics Lies, All Lies

Wether you’re looking at figures for murder or GDP growth, if they come from the Argentinian government they’re probably false. Buenos Aires has a tradition of inflating statistics. This wouldn’t matter too much if the statistics in question weren’t so badly disguised, so habitually, by the government, or if those statistics didn’t have knock-on effects for Argentinian citizens. The Economist has the story:

Farm-watchers were confused when their estimates for the 2013 maize harvest of around 25.5 billion tonnes trailed that of the agriculture ministry by more than 6 billion tonnes. It turned out the ministry had quietly included maize retained by farmers to feed their livestock, contrary to its previous practice. When it comes to official economic numbers, only those of the Central Bank still command some credibility.

The official inability to face the truth extends to crime. The justice ministry stopped publishing annual crime statistics in 2009. In its statistics the health ministry has reduced the murder count by two thirds by subtracting “deaths from outside aggression, of unknown intent”, of which there were 3,124 in 2011.

The problem for President Cristina Fernández is that her government’s statistical solipsism no longer washes with Argentines. This month a dozen provinces were shaken by police strikes (settled with wage increases of over 30%) and looting. Argentines know perfectly well that inflation, poverty and crime bear little resemblance to the official statistics.

Argentina is sinking deeper into a web of self-flattering lies. But the gap between the rosy picture painted by systematically deceptive government statistics and the grim reality of Argentine life has grown so wide that nobody believes the statistics any more. The IMF tried last February to force Argentina to be more honest, but gave up the effort not long after, saying it “recognized” the government’s “ongoing work.” But private economists and investors, and Argentinians themselves, won’t be taking Argentinian government statistics seriously for the foreseeable future.

Published on December 29, 2013 12:00 pm
  • rheddles

    Sounds like they’re taking tips from the folks at BLS who compute CPI.