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Argentina Lists 500 Goods in Price Freeze Accord With Retailers

Argentina’s consumer defense agency released a list of 500 goods whose prices will be frozen from June 1 as President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner struggles to stem the region’s second-fastest inflation.

Under an accord between the government and supermarkets, including Carrefour SA, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Chile’s Cencosud SA, which runs the Jumbo, Disco and Plaza Vea chains, prices have been fixed for goods ranging from cooking oil to sodas, cereals, wines, hair removal wax and beer, according to a statement posted on the agency’s website.

Fernandez, 60, last week ordered officials and supporters to monitor stores to ensure the accord was honored in a campaign called “Watch and Take Care.” While the government says consumer prices rose 10.5 percent in the 12 months through April, private economists estimate the increase at 24 percent, according to a monthly inflation report released by opposition lawmakers. Venezuela, where prices rose 29.4 percent in the 12 months through April, has the fastest inflation rate in South America.

“We agreed on goods that are commonly used,” Juan Vasco Martinez, manager of the country’s Supermarket Association said in a telephone interview. “At the same time we have reached an accord with industries to ensure supplies.”

In February, Argentina’s supermarkets agreed with Interior Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno to freeze prices for 60 days, a period that was later extended to four months.

IMF Censure

Economists have questioned the country’s official inflation data since early 2007, when Fernandez’s late husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner changed senior staff at the national statistics agency. In February, Argentina became the first member of the International Monetary Fund to be censured by the lender for not providing accurate data. The government has fined economists as much as 500,000 pesos ($94,591) for releasing inflation figures that were different to those published by agency.

Moreno defended official data on May 7, saying the country’s real inflation rate was that released by the agency. The government has said it will introduce a new index by the end of the year that reflects changing consumption habits.

Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri today said the capital will soon start to publish its own consumer price index, calling the government’s price data a “lie”. The city index will track more than 600 goods and 60,000 prices, he said.

“There’s no other country that lies on its statistics or persecutes technicians who try to tell the truth,´´ Macri told reporters.

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