Should Argentina modify the National Statistics Agency?

It has circulated in different media these days that the current government administration has the purpose of establishing a new INDEC (National Statistics Agency) to replace the existing one.

The intentions are good because it seeks greater independence so that the arbitrariness and falsifications that are of public knowledge and were perpetrated by the previous administration won’t happen again. This is intended to exempt it from a certain responsibility, in order not to be burdened with new and heavy indebtedness by linking it with some indicators, as agreed upon in a timely manner.

I remember that when the abuses against the INDEC were clear, my colleague at the National Academy of Economic Sciences, Alfredo Canavese, contacted me to invite me to sign a statement that showed that nonsense. In that exchange, I told him that I accepted to be included in the aforementioned public statement, but that it seemed to me, strictly speaking, to tell him on a personal level that the aforementioned crisis should make us think about the sense of having a state statistical entity.

In this regard, I stated that there was an opportunity to highlight that the de facto dismantling of the entity, with all its problems and harmful effects, simultaneously opened the possibility and encouraged different academic and professional expressions to start working in the confection of statistics.

This process also considered that it would make possible the competition among the aforementioned institutions, which would mean a cross-audit to achieve the highest levels of excellence, which happened a lot.

This idea was originally proposed by Nobel laureate in economics James M. Buchanan on his visit to Buenos Aires, which was taken badly by those attached to the status quo, as always.

I confess that now I do not propose this with too much optimism regarding the desire of the current governors to execute the idea and that in all cases we do not change. Anyway, I reiterate that it would be of great interest that they escape from the litany of copying what others do and decide to open imaginative paths, not only to reduce the monumental public expenditure we suffer but to have a real independence and statistical quality. While the entity is in the political orbit there will never be a real independence from the temptations of power.

In this context, I close with a thought that I have cited on other occasions but it is appropriate to reiterate it. It is about the Jeffersonian and doctor in laws Leandro N. Alem that in the legislature of the province of Buenos Aires, in 1880, expressed: “Governing the least possible. Yes, govern as little as possible because the less strange government men have, the more freedom advances, the more self-government they have and the more their initiative strengthens and their activity unfolds.”

Written by Alberto Benegas Lynch (h)
President of the Academic Council, Freedom and Progress
Publish originally in Spanish by El Cronista