By Anna Yukhananov
WASHINGTON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Argentina has taken all the required steps so far to revamp its economic data but must still meet one more deadline as it seeks to bring the quality of its statistics in line with global standards, the International Monetary Fund’s board said on Monday.
The IMF, which requires accurate data to analyze the world’s economies, censured Argentina last year over failing to improve its inflation and GDP growth figures, putting the country at risk of official sanctions that could have barred it from voting on IMF policies and accessing financing.
But the IMF later signaled Latin America’s third-largest economy was making progress in improving its data quality, and gave it a timeline for improvements.
The IMF’s move put it at odds with many analysts and private economists who continue to doubt the credibility of Argentina’s data. Critics of the government say the country’s second default in 12 years in July has worsened the outlook for the already struggling economy and prompted the government to present more optimistic figures in an effort to calm markets and consumers.
“The Executive Board recognized the implementation of all the specified actions it had called for by end-September 2014 and the steps taken by the Argentine authorities to remedy the inaccurate provision of data,” the board said in a statement.
Analysts accused Argentina’s government of under-reporting inflation since early 2007 for political gain and to reduce payments on its inflation-indexed debt, and the country agreed to revamp its consumer price index earlier this year in a bid to win back the trust of financial markets.
But the new index continues to clock inflation at well below analysts’ estimates and the government has stopped listing the products measured, raising questions over how much the data is being dragged down by price controls that the administration puts on scores of food and household items.
The government now estimates inflation will reach 21.3 percent this year, while private economists see the figure as close to 40 percent.
In October, Argentina also sharply criticized the IMF’s forecasts for a recession this year and next, saying the economy should eke out growth of 0.5 percent this year.
The IMF said Argentina had to meet one more deadline by the end of February to implement “actions previously specified,” without giving further details. The IMF board will then meet to discuss its progress in mid-April. (Reporting by Anna Yukhananov Additional reporting by Sarah Marsh in Buenos Aires; Editing by Paul Simao and James Dalgleish)