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Proof Peru better off? Beer drinking up - president

Peru's President Alan Garcia at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid in this January 21, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

LIMA (Reuters) - Booming beer sales show Peruvians are better off than they say and have benefited from five years of economic growth more than they think, President Alan Garcia said on Wednesday.

Garcia has struggled in opinion polls to lift his approval rating above 30 percent, even though Peru’s economy grew 9 percent last year, one of the fastest rates in the world.

“Household earnings are up, we are building more houses, buying more telephones and consuming much, much more beer,” President Alan Garcia told reporters in front of the presidential palace.

Sales by Peru’s leading beer company rose 11.5 percent last year.

One poll this week showed nearly 70 percent of Peruvians said they had yet to feel the positive impact of the bustling economy. Poverty rates have fallen to 42 percent from more than 50 percent at the start of the decade. The government’s goal is to reduce poverty to 30 percent by 2011.

Garcia, a former leftist who now embraces free markets and globalization, said voters were letting a jump in food prices get in the way of seeing what the government has accomplished.

“That’s the snapshot today but you have to look at the film of the last five years,” he said. “I understand people have the right to express their frustration but I think this is because of higher prices for things like bread and chicken.”

Additional reporting by Teresa Cespedes