To: axial who wrote ( 31017) 8/17/2009 8:11:18 AM From: Peter Ecclesine Read Replies (2) | Respond to of 46820 Doctored Data Cast Doubt on Argentina Economists Dispute Inflation Numbers By Juan Forero, Washington Post Foreign Service, Sunday, August 16, 2009 washingtonpost.com BUENOS AIRES -- Workers at the government's National Institute of Statistics call it crass manipulation: Their agency, under pressure from above, altered socioeconomic data to reflect numbers palatable to the presidency. Inflation and poverty miraculously dropped, they said in interviews, and the economy boomed. At least officially. "They just erased the real numbers," said Luciano Belforte, an 18-year veteran at the institute. "Reality did not matter." The alleged manipulation, which is under investigation by anti-corruption prosecutors, has angered Argentines. But in a globalized world, where a pensioner in Italy might be as likely to invest in Argentina as in Fiat, the suspected modifications are being felt far beyond this city. <> Statisticians, mathematicians and survey-takers who still work at the INDEC described how managers stopped surveying products that had recorded steep price hikes. "If something went up more than 15 percent, they'd take it off the list," said Marcela Almeida, a mathematician and one of several workers deposed by prosecutors. Almeida said managers would obsess about certain products, such as bread, urging surveyors to come back to the INDEC office with prices that remained low. If they were not low enough, Almeida said, "the person who received their forms would change this price." The controversy has raised questions about the government's official poverty figure. The INDEC's calculation is 15.3 percent; the Catholic Church says it is closer to 40 percent. After Pope Benedict XVI called poverty in Argentina a "scandal" this month, the government acknowledged that as many as 23 percent of Argentines might be poor. But economists, among them Juan Bour, of the Latin American Foundation for Economic Investigations, said they expect no major changes in the INDEC's data-gathering. "It would be a recognition of significant failure," Bour said.