Argentina statistics agency says to publish interim inflation data

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The recently appointed head of Argentina’s official statistics office said on Saturday that a new interim consumer price index will be published within a couple of weeks in a bid to produce credible data following an election that brought a new government to power.

Newly elected President Mauricio Macri wants to restore confidence in Latin America’s third-largest economy in order to boost much-needed investment.

For years, data produced by the INDEC, the government’s official statistics agency, has been widely seen as inaccurate and politically motivated.

“I think that in two weeks, we should have a provisional (consumer price) index. Credible, but provisional,” new INDEC Director Jorge Todesca told Radio Mitre.

“There is a widespread state of chaos in the statistical bases,” said Todesca, adding that INDEC is working to produce updates to gross domestic product, trade, unemployment and poverty data.

Consumer prices data in particular has shown the official inflation reading at about half the rate estimated privately. Critics said the prior government of two-term President Cristina Fernandez massaged the data to reduce payments on its inflation-indexed debt load and rein in inflation expectations.

The latest official data available reported annual inflation in October of 14.3 percent. But data compiled from private estimates and published by lawmakers in Argentina’s Congress have put it at 25.0 percent.

Todesca said recently that many officials at INDEC had resigned in the wake of the election last month that brought the conservative Macri to power and that the much-maligned statistics office will take months to revamp.

It will “take some time to put the trustworthy people” in place at INDEC, said Todesca. He added that there is a bill to make the institution autonomous.

Macri has promised free-market solutions to Argentina’s long list of economic woes. His predecessor, Fernandez, believed in heavy state control of the economy. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath, writing by Anthony Esposito, editing by G Crosse)