An Argentine appeals court threw out the fines that Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno had slapped on private firms that issued inflation estimates that were much higher than the government’s official rate.
The ruling released on Monday was handed down by four national appeals chambers, the Centre of Judicial Information (CIJ) reported.
Two of the firms fined were headed by former Argentine government officials, former National Statistics bureau (Indec) Chief Technician Graciela Bevacqua and another led by former Economy minister Roberto Lavagna.
Argentina’s official stats since 2007 have been questioned and challenged both domestically and internationally. The IMF has warned Argentina it must improve the quality of its inflation and GDP stats and has given the country a new chance until next September to present reliable acceptable information. If not Argentina could have its IMF membership withdrawn.
The judges stated in their ruling that “we have left without effect each of those fines that the Domestic Trade Secretary made against various private firms...the court considers that the charges made are not found in Article 9 of the cited legal regulation.”
Article 9 of the Argentine Fair Trade Practices Law prohibits the publication of any inaccurate information that could lead to error, manipulation or confusion of private property, quality, origin, prices, production or services.
In the past, alternative inflation estimates measured privately have been provided by various firms (such as in the 80s and 90s,) but since the Indec was reformed in January, 2007, more research firms have tried to publish a diverse set of inflation rates.
Late former president Néstor Kirchner replaced Bevacqua at Indec with Beatriz Paglieri. Bevacqua, amongst other Indec officials, were laid off after they had contested what they considered to be the “manipulation of official statistics.”
Each month Indec has consistently published considerably lower inflation rates than those measured privately by independent firms. At the start of 2011, due to alleged threat to consumers, the Domestic Trade Secretariat threatened a number of firms with fines of up to 500,000 Pesos (approx 100.000 dollars).
Many firms stopped publishing the information. Dozens of these firms in response send their information to opposition Lower House deputies members of the Freedom of Expression committee. Since then the alternative inflation rate has been issued by the committee.