Argentina's leader rejects IMF criticism of data

AP News
Posted: Sep 25, 2012 7:32 PM
Argentina's leader rejects IMF criticism of data

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Argentina's president on Tuesday rejected the International Monetary Fund's criticism of her government's economic figures and dismissed an IMF threat of unspecified sanctions if changes are not made.

President Cristina Fernandez also seemed extremely irritated that the IMF president used soccer terminology in a warning to Argentina a day earlier.

"I want to tell the head of the IMF that this is not a soccer game. The (global) economic and political crisis is the most severe on record since the '30s," Fernandez said during her speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

Still, the Argentine leader also used soccer to make her own criticism of the IMF, saying the IMF might perform its duties better if it learned a few things from soccer's international governing body, FIFA.

"The role of the president of FIFA has been far more satisfying than the role of the director of the IMF in organizing what is their responsibility," Fernandez said.

While FIFA successfully puts on the World Cup every four years, she said, "the IMF has been trying to organize the (worldwide) economy since the '80s and crisis after crisis shows it hasn't done so."

On Monday, IMF President Christine Lagarde criticized the economic statistics released by Argentina's government, numbers that are widely discounted by outside analysts, and warned of sanctions if the Argentines don't publish accurate inflation and growth data by Dec. 17.

"This is the last yellow card we show them," Lagarde said, referring to a warning given to soccer players for serious infractions during games. "I hope we can avoid the red card (expulsion), but if the statistics aren't corrected, if they don't comply with the rules, then all the players are equal. It doesn't matter how well they play football."

Fernandez ridiculed the warning. "My country is not a soccer club. It is a sovereign nation that makes its decisions sovereignly and will not be subjected to any pressure, let alone to any threat," she said.

Fernandez did not refer directly to the economic statistics questioned by the IMF, saying only that Argentina has turned its back on formulas promoted by the agency and has a stronger economy than countries that follow its prescriptions.

Argentina is the only leading world economy and IMF member whose numbers have been rejected by the Washington-based IMF as unreliable.

Critics of its statistics contend Fernandez's leftist-oriented government greatly understates inflation. The government's INDEC statistics agency has reported monthly inflation below 1 percent for more than two years, while Argentines have seen price rises of two or three times higher.

Moody's Investors Service downgraded Argentina's risk rating last week, potentially increasing borrowing costs for anyone doing business with the country.