Annex 1. Rehabilitating Argentina’s official statistics and statistical system

Troubled recent history of Argentinian statistics

Argentina’s statistics deteriorated over the period 2007-15, as political pressures grew to adopt methods that would lead to the publication of “positive” data about the state of Argentina’s economy and society. As a result, trade figures showed artificial surpluses, inflation was underestimated, GDP growth was exaggerated, and poverty levels were minimised. At the same time, the number and quality of underlying censuses, surveys and procedures declined.

In July 2011, the IMF found Argentina in breach of its minimum reporting requirements as an IMF member, on account of its inaccurate provision of CPI and GDP data. When this was not remedied, the IMF Executive Board issued a Statement of Concern in 2012 and a Declaration of Censure in 2013. By the time the new government entered office in December 2015, Argentina’s statistics had lost credibility both domestically and internationally. The new President declared a state of administrative emergency in the National Statistical System (NSS) on 7 January 2016, allowing the new Director of the national statistical institute, INDEC, to reorganise the agency.

INDEC suspended regular publication of statistics for several months while reforms were under way, but since May 2016 new and more reliable data on inflation, GDP and trade have progressively come on stream. The IMF Executive Board lifted its Declaration of Censure and Statement of Concern on 9 November 2016.

OECD assistance to reform efforts

In a letter to the OECD Secretary-General on 30 June 2016, Argentina’s Minister of Treasury and Public Finance expressed his country’s willingness to adhere to the Recommendation of the OECD Council on Good Statistical Practice adopted in November 2015. This document sets out twelve specific recommendations for establishing a sound statistical system, and gives examples of good practice based on OECD countries’ experiences.

The Committee on Statistics and Statistical Policy (CSSP) responded to Argentina’s request by agreeing to a preliminary review to allow it to form a judgement whether Argentina is fully committed to putting in place a sound statistical system, in line with the Council Recommendation. Argentina agreed to this review, and asked the OECD to pay particular attention to the following aspects of its statistics:

  • Legal and institutional framework for official statistics (LIF)

  • National accounts (including public sector debt)

  • Consumer price indices

  • International Trade in Goods

At the time of writing the preliminary review is in the final stages of preparation before being submitted to the CSSP at its June 2017 meeting.

Recent progress is encouraging

The Argentinian authorities are moving rapidly to consolidate progress in re-establishing a sound national statistical system that can produce statistics free from political interference and distortion. The legal framework is being re-examined with a view to updating and consolidating the relevant laws and decrees and ensuring that the national statistical agency INDEC enjoys independence and functional autonomy. At the time of writing, the details and timing of these actions were still being decided. Among possible improvements are measures designed to reinforce INDEC’s authority to decide on statistical methods and dissemination, and to protect its Director and staff from political interference in the exercise of their professional responsibilities. INDEC may also need greater freedom to control its financial, human and technical resources, and its presence in Argentina’s regions may have to be reinforced.

INDEC has made significant progress since the beginning of 2016 on national accounts data, though gaps remain because of the lack of recent reliable censuses, an incomplete business register and the absence of a recent household expenditure survey. The single biggest gap is the absence of sector accounts, and there is an over-reliance on the production side of the accounts for estimating real GDP on the basis of industry-level quantity indexes. An improved coverage of public sector enterprises will be needed to develop comprehensive public sector debt statistics, and discussions may be necessary with provinces and municipalities to achieve speeder provision of sub-national debt data.

Argentina has also made rapid progress towards meeting international methodological standards and OECD requirements for CPI data. However, means to improve the length of the CPI series and revise weights and the treatment of owner-occupied housing will need to be considered further. Figures on international trade in goods are improving as INDEC works to improve seasonally adjusted trade balance statistics and analyse bilateral trade statistics with countries in and outside MERCOSUR.

Latest developments and outlook

The state of administrative emergency in statistics terminated at the end of 2016, and was not renewed. New statistical legislation may be presented to Congress in late 2017, but issues with the large number of temporary staff at INDEC may need to be regularised beforehand. A 2015 decree provided for an Honorary Consultative Council to be appointed by the Director of INDEC to assist him in his work, and now that the emergency decree has been allowed to expire, he may proceed to appoint this body.

At the OECD, Argentina has been invited by the CSSP to attend its meetings and those of its working parties as an invitee. If at its June 2017 meeting the CSSP expresses a positive opinion on Argentina’s adherence to the Council Recommendation on the basis of the preliminary assessment, then a full review of Argentina’s statistical system, in line with the well-established model used in the context of accession to the OECD, may be carried out.