Argentina Faces IMF Penalties Over Failure to Meet Inflation Deadline

Argentina Fans

Argentina faces the prospect of eviction from the world economic community after its apparent failure to respond to a three-month deadline set by the International Monetary Fund to produce accurate inflation and growth statistics.

Ejection from the IMF could lead to a variety of economic and political penalties, including exclusion from the G20 of industrial nations. IMF rules state that member states "must not co-operate with a non-member in practices that would be contrary to … the purposes of the Fund".

Some experts believe the IMF's managing director, Christine Lagarde, has lost patience with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's government. A spokesman for the IMF has said that a report will be submitted to its board on Monday which will decide the course of action.

Official inflation statistics in Argentina show prices rising at around 10% but independent assessments have prices rising at 25% and more. The problem that inflation is running higher than official figures is acknowledged by Gabriela Cerruti, an MP from the governing party.

Cerruti said: "I think the real problem is if you have unemployment, or you're losing your home, not the statistics themselves. People always argue over statistics. Prices may be rising up to 20% a year, but people's pay is also going up by 20%."

Criticism of Argentina dates back to 2007, when the inflation rate first began to rise sharply into double-figures. The trade ministry responded at the time by replacing the director of consumer pricing at the government statistics agency, Graciela Bevacqua.

As well as losing her job, Bevacqua faced prosecution on a range of charges, from damaging the Argentine economy to embezzlement and receiving bribes. None of the criminal charges have been upheld in court, although she has been forced to pay fines for publishing her own unofficial inflation rate, which like most others is now about 150% higher than the government's published figure of around 10% per year.

Rising prices have been a major spur to recent mass protests against Kirchner's government in the capital Buenos Aires.

But Cerruti echoes the Argentine president's argument that the country must not give in to what they see as international blackmail, and the view, widely held in Argentina, that the IMF was itself the cause of many of the problems that led to the country's major default and crisis in 2001.

"All these big world organisations are trying to say what we have to do with our economy. They are saying we have no transparency just because we don't do what the big world organisations want us to do. We are doing very well, so maybe it's time for other countries to see what's going on here," Cerruti said.

Argentina has recorded nearly 8% growth since 2003 although critics say that the figures are suspect. Growth has now stalled, and attempts to conceal real inflation figures and suppress wage demands, they argue, have got the government into an ever-worsening mess.

Ed Butler presents the BBC Assignment programme Argentina's Numbers Game on World Service Radio

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ed Butler, for The Guardian on Sunday 16th December 2012 18.10 Europe/London

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