Argentine Opposition Lawmakers Say Prices Rose 1.2% in February

Argentine consumer prices rose 1.2 percent in February, according to opposition lawmakers, more than double the 0.5 percent reported yesterday by the government’s national statistics agency.

Opposition Congressmen Ricardo Gil Lavedra and Patricia Bullrich, citing estimates by private economists, said prices rose 25.3 percent in February from a year earlier. The statistics agency put the 12-month increase at 10.8 percent

“We don’t see any sustainable policy to try to seriously contain inflation,” Gil Lavedra said in a press conference in Buenos Aires.

In meetings with government officials last month, Argentina’s supermarkets and home appliance retailers agreed to freeze prices from Feb. 1 to April 1. The accord may be extended for another 120 days, Miguel Calvete, director of the Federation of Chinese Supermarkets and Associations, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

“Frozen prices seem to have helped slow inflation in the short term,” said Roberto Drimer, economist at Vatnet research company in Buenos Aires. “In the long term, those accords have to be supported by fiscal, monetary and income policies to continue to work.”

Argentina’s inflation data has been questioned since early 2007, when then President Nestor Kirchner changed personnel at the agency. On Feb. 1, Argentina became the first country to be censured by the International Monetary Fund for not providing accurate economic data under a procedure that can end in expulsion from the Washington-based lender.

According to the government, inflation last year was 10.8 percent, less than half the 26 percent estimated by the private economists, who aren’t named because they would be exposed to fines for releasing statistics that aren’t in line with official data.

Argentines see consumer prices rising 30 percent over the next 12 months, according to a February poll by the Buenos Aires-based Torcuato Di Tella University.

The peso, which has weakened 14 percent over the past 12 months, declined 0.14 percent to 5.083 per dollar at 3:47 p.m. local time.

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