Economy minister Hernan Lorenzino became the laughing stock of Argentina when a video was revealed showing him suspending an interview with Greek television arguing that Argentine inflation ‘is too complex’ and telling his aides, ‘I want to leave’. One of the aides then tells the Greek reporter that in Argentina ‘we don’t discuss inflation’.
A video of the interview surfaced this week and quickly became the talk of Argentine social networks. On Twitter his words were constantly re-tweeted, and the video of the visibly uncomfortable minister played repeatedly on Argentine television news stations that aren’t aligned with the government. Someone even put his voice to a cumbia beat, mashed it up with the Peronist March and posted the music video on YouTube.
Lorenzino granted the interview in his ministry headquarters to Eleni Varvitsiotis late last year, but the Greek channel Skai TV didn’t broadcast it until Tuesday, as part of a documentary comparing Argentina’s 2001 economic crisis to the situation in Greece.
Private economic analysts have said Argentina’s consumer prices rose about 26% in 2012, more than twice the 10.8% published by the government’s inflation index, whose accuracy has been publicly rejected by the International Monetary Foundation.
“I have a very simple question for you, which seems very complicated these days: How much is Argentine inflation at this moment?” she asked.
“Official statistics show month after month the inflation and this is the only inflation possible, that provided by the official stats office” the minister responded in Spanish.
“But, how much is it?” she insisted.
Increasingly uncomfortable, Lorenzino said “I think the cumulative inflation over the last 12 months is 10.2%; I might be off by a decimal.”
The journalist then noted that the IMF has warned that it will impose sanctions against Argentina for putting out false statistics. “What will you do about that?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know. Can we turn off the camera a moment? I want to leave,” Lorenzino said addressing an aide.
The rest of the encounter was captured on audio. Lorenzino can be heard telling the reporter, “Talking about inflation statistics in Argentina is complex. ... I’d rather leave it with the last thing I said and not go on about it.”
Lorenzino then leaves, and an aide can be heard telling the reporter: “We never speak about inflation, not even with the Argentine media.”
But “price increases are the main topic of the economy now” protests the Greek reporter. “Everyone in the street is saying there’s high inflation. It’s not possible that I not ask about it. If not, I’m not doing my job.”