President Alberto Fernández has questioned the INDEC national statistics bureau, saying he think that Argentina’s official poverty rate is “badly measured.”
More than four in 10 Argentines are living in poverty according to the statistics agency, which is tasked with measuring official government data.
Fernández, who departs office in a week and will hand over power to libertarian lawmaker Javier Milei, said that runaway inflation, which is running at more 143 percent per annum, was the central cause behind the ruling coalition’s election defeat.
"One has to ask oneself why we lost, and we cannot think that we lost because the people are wrong,” the president said in an interview with Noticias Argentinas,.
“Evidently we lost because the inflationary problem deepened due to the lack of dollars. When inflation reaches the levels it has reached, people's pockets deteriorate and we were unable to find an answer to that," Fernández acknowledged.
Argentina is experiencing severe shortage of foreign currency, with access to international credit markets practically cut off, which has led to systematic money-printing to cover the public finance deficit, fuelling the inflationary spiral.
On INDEC’s official figure of 40.1 percent of the country's poor, Fernández told the news agency that "if there were that much poverty, Argentina would be exploding at the seams.”
"I think poverty is badly measured," said the 64-year-old.
"I can't understand how to reconcile the fact that there is 40 percent poverty and at the same time we have been creating jobs for 37 consecutive months ... there is something that doesn't fit with me and since poverty is finally measured through the Permanent Household Survey, it is a survey ... at a time when surveys have also demonstrated their fallibility," he said.
The declarations met with a furious response from ex-Unión por la Patria presidential hopeful Juan Grabois, who told Fernández he should “take charge.”
The Unión de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de la Economía Popular (UTEP) leader said that current social indicators are “objectively worse” than when Fernández took office four years ago.
"Everything indicates that by December the numbers will be even more alarming," the lawyer warned.
"This is the reality that is the only truth. We have to take charge. Argentina is blown up, Alberto... we are just used to it; it does not explode, it implodes. It makes less noise, but people are bleeding to death inside," he said.
As in other recent interviews, Fernández avoided harshly criticising his vice-president, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The relationship between the two has deteriorated during his time in office.
"She has a way of doing politics that I don't like, which has to do with that personalist way of doing politics. But I respect her," he said of the leader with whom he said he "does not" speak.
The president, who will participate on Thursday in a high-profile Mercosur summit in Brazil in what will be his last international event, said he is a "democrat" and will be at Milei’s inauguration because it "corresponds" to what he should do.
Fernández closed the interview by saying that he hopes Argentines will remember him as "a man of democracy.”