Archive for Terry Wade

20090522 – Doubts grow about accuracy of Peru GDP numbers

Posted in 3 Cables with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2009 by Farid Matuk

By Terry Wade

LIMA, May 22 (Reuters) – Official statistics on economic growth in Peru may be too optimistic and painting a picture showing economic expansion when in fact the Andean country is in a recession, two Peruvian academics said.

Peru’s statistics agency, the INEI, started working with a new methodology for calculating gross domestic product in 2007, and its results sharply diverge from the previous model.

Bruno Seminario, an economics professor at the Universidad del Pacifico in Lima who has taken current data and run them threw the old model, says Peru’s economy is in fact shrinking at a time when President Alan Garcia says his country is largely sidestepping fallout from the global downturn.

“This change (to a new methodology) has generated so many distortions that nobody knows what’s going on,” Seminario told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

INEI director Renan Quispe, who declined to comment for this article but in the past has insisted he has “improved” the method for calculating GDP, has measured growth at 3.14 percent in January, 0.19 percent in February, and 3.05 percent in March using his new methodology.

But Seminario said that when the INEI’s previous model is used, the numbers look much worse and show economic contraction of 0.51 percent, 1.38 percent, and 1.71 percent in each of the first three months of this year.

He said Peru is suffering a recession similar to the one it fell into after the 1997-8 Asian financial crisis, and that Peru’s economy has ground to a halt after surging nearly 10 percent each of the last two years on a boom in commodities prices.

Seminario said the results produced by the new methodology the INEI is using are counterintuitive at a time when other indicators and countries that rely on commodities exports are suffering sharper declines.

The current slowdown has caused critics to take a closer look at official GDP numbers.

Economists also complain that the new methodology is a bit of a black box, wasn’t subjected to a public comment period by independent statisticians before being introduced, and that the official results suggest a series of flimsy assumptions were put into the new model.

“Nobody’s seen the survey or the deflators,” Seminario said. “The only sensible thing to do is for the INEI to publish both series of numbers.”

He isn’t the only critic.

Farid Matuk, the former head of the INEI who was fired from his job after Garcia took office, has also written that he thinks the numbers are inflated.

He has even gone so far to say that the government has filed several lawsuits against him in retaliation for criticizing the GDP numbers.

Garcia’s chief of staff, Yehude Simon, denied that the lawsuits were politically motivated, local radio reported on Friday.

Critics say the INEI is being imprudent by deriving some key numbers from estimates, instead of actual surveys.

Still other critics have compared Garcia’s administration to the Kirchner governments in Argentina, which private economists have criticized for manipulating official statistics for political ends.

“The strategy to alter part of the measurement of GDP is misguided because the sectors ‘other services,’ commerce, construction, among others, are measured between the four walls of the INEI,” Matuk has said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/economicNews/idUSN2237155420090522

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20090324 – Hunger intensifies despite economic growth in Peru

Posted in 3 Cables with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2009 by Farid Matuk

32 percent of Peruvians get inadequate food

Slower economic growth likely to push up hunger rates

By Dana Ford

LIMA, March 24 (Reuters) – More Peruvians went hungry last year despite blazing economic growth, a sign that President Alan Garcia is stumbling in efforts to direct benefits of an impressive expansion to the poor.

The percentage of people in Peru with inadequate nutrition rose by more than 11 percent in 2008, faster than the economy’s 9.8 percent surge, according to the national statistics agency.

Now, 32 percent of Peruvians do not get enough to eat.

The results suggest the poor did not make gains during Peru’s economic boom last year. They also explain in part why the government is so unpopular in rural areas, where hunger rates are highest and leftist politicians like Ollanta Humala, who plans to run for office in 2011, draw support.

“The benefits of the economic boom have not been distributed equally,” said Federico Arnillas, president of a network of civic groups that works on poverty issues with the health and finance ministries.

Garcia, who embraced mainstream economic policies after his first term in the 1980s ended in runaway inflation that made adequate food too costly for millions of people, has said he wants to reduce poverty to 30 percent by the time he leaves office.

When he was re-elected in 2006, Garcia fervently pushed investment and free trade and his recipe to lift incomes seemed to work. Prices for Peru’s metal exports surged and domestic demand rose, contributing to rapid economic growth.

The national poverty rate fell 5 percent in 2007 to 39 percent, a year when inflation was low and public spending on food programs was relatively high.

But in 2008, hunger crept up, as inflation spiked on a global run up in food prices and aid spending fell. Peru’s poverty rate for last year is not yet available, but experts say the government may have lost ground. That could hurt Garcia’s approval rating, now at 34 percent.

“The numbers tell us there is a percentage of the population that is, quite literally, dying of hunger,” said Farid Matuk, a former director of the national statistics agency and a government critic.

In rural areas, where Garcia’s support is weak, the number of people not eating enough rose to 42.5 percent in 2008.

Arnillas said the increase stems from political decisions and pointed to cuts in social spending.

“It’s not a simple resource problem. It’s a political one,” he said of hunger in Peru.

LOOKING AHEAD

Advocates say slower economic growth this year will likely push hunger rates higher and are urging the government to adopt policies that prioritize food security.

Peru’s government is rolling out a $3 billion stimulus package meant to maintain investment and employment levels and increase public work projects. The plan, which aims for economic growth of at least 5 percent, also includes agricultural incentives to boost local food production.

Matuk, the former statistics agency head, said the government is too focused on high macroeconomic growth figures and should have paid more attention to the poor before the global economy entered a crisis.

Arnillas said Peru needs a bigger safety net as private economists forecast growth of less than 1 percent this year.

“We are worried the poor will wind up paying the cost of the crisis,” he said. “This is what happened in the past and we are working to make sure it does not happen again.” (Editing by Terry Wade and Vicki Allen)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN24355472