| BUENOS AIRES, April 25
BUENOS AIRES, April 25 Argentina's top economic
official has caused a stir by abruptly cutting short an
interview when a reporter pressed him on the accuracy of
official inflation data, which most independent economists say
is severely doctored.
The reporter for Greece's Skai TV asked Economy Minister
Hernan Lorenzino what Argentina's inflation rate was. When
Lorenzino responded that it was about 10.2 percent - less than
half the rate estimated by outside analysts - the reporter
pointed out that the International Monetary Fund warned
Argentina about its poor data last year.
She then asked Lorenzino how the government plans to address
the IMF's concerns.
"Look ... I'll repeat to you again. I think that, eh, it's a
... Can we cut this off? Sorry," Lorenzino replied.
Skai TV then showed footage in which Lorenzino was heard
speaking to the reporter off-camera.
"I want to go," he said. "And, what's more - the truth:
Speaking about inflation statistics in Argentina is complex, OK?
I prefer to stick with the last answer I gave you, and not delve
into the subject."
The interview took place in December and is part of an
hour-long documentary that aired in Greece on Tuesday, the
reporter, Eleni Varvitsiotis, told Reuters by telephone. The
clip caught fire on social media in Argentina on Wednesday and
the hashtag #mequieroir - "I want to go," in Spanish - was
trending on Twitter.
The clip seemed to strike a nerve for several reasons.
Inflation has been running at around 25 percent for several
years, according to private estimates, but has recently shown
signs of causing greater pain for Argentines as Latin America's
No. 3 economy sharply slowed over the past year.
An estimated 1 million people flooded the streets of Buenos
Aires last week in one of the biggest demonstrations against
leftist President Cristina Fernandez in years. Many people, in
interviews, complained about her government's "lies" as they
beat pots and pans in protest.
Unreliable official data, and a generally hostile business
climate, is often cited in private by executives as a reason for
postponing projects and investments. By underreporting
inflation, Argentina has cost creditors millions of dollars
because some bonds are linked to price data.
Lorenzino's comments also drew attention because of their
rarity - Argentine officials seldom give interviews to
independent journalists, meaning that seeing an official held to
account for inflation was unusual in itself.
A spokeswoman at the economy ministry said she had no
further comment on the Skai TV interview.
The interview recalled an incident last September when
Fernandez spoke at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
When a student asked her about inflation, she implied that data
in the United States is misleading, too.
Varvitsiotis, the reporter, said she visited Argentina to
examine how the country has fared since a major economic
meltdown and debt default in 2001, which she said might hold
lessons for Greece, itself mired in a severe debt crisis.
During her 10 days in Buenos Aires, she said most Argentines
told her inflation was their number-one concern.
"Everyone talked about it. So how was I supposed to meet
with the economy minister and not ask him about inflation?"
Varvitsiotis said. "I didn't expect him to get upset."