The resignation of the president of the National Institute of Statistics (INE), Juan Manuel Rodríguez Poo, has opened a new front for the Government of Pedro Sánchez. The exit, “for personal reasons” according to sources from the agency, comes after months in which several economic ministers of the Executive have questioned the calculations on the gross domestic product (GDP) and the consumer price index (CPI). Rodríguez Poo’s resignation has sparked criticism from social agents and the opposition.
“Independent organizations have to be independent”, argued Antonio Garamendi, president of the CEOE, who added: “It is essential that they evaluate things when you like them and when you don’t like them”. The controversy has been unleashed by a change in the leadership of the statistical institute that is unprecedented. Although it is formally a resignation, Rodríguez Poo has left office after the Ministry of Economy slipped his dismissal into the body, as confirmed by four sources. At the INE it was taken for granted that the dome would be changed. And on Friday, a meeting took place at the ministry between Rodríguez Poo and the economic vice president, Nadia Calviño, after the institute had revised the GDP for the first quarter downwards, from a quarterly growth of 0.3% to 0.2 %. Despite the meeting on Friday, the president of the INE was not clear about the outcome until after the weekend.
After the resignation on Monday night, the opposition parties have taken advantage of this gap to increase pressure this Tuesday and criticize the latest movements of President Pedro Sánchez, at the start of the NATO summit that is being held these days in Madrid . Alberto Núñez Feijóo, leader of the PP, has assured that it is a mistake. “Removing the president of the INE because the Government does not agree with the official statistics of Spain in terms of economic growth and in terms of inflation is without a doubt an error that affects credibility, reliability and reputation [del país]”, affirmed Núñez Feijóo.
In Ciudadanos, for his part, the spokesman in Congress, Edmundo Bal, has accused the Government of trying to “turn Spain into a party-state”. “This government intends to colonize the state and become the only one possible. It is corrosive, it is caustic soda for the independence of institutions”, Bal concluded. Meanwhile, the PSOE tries to defend itself as best it can: “We must dismantle the argument that the Government intends to control the INE. Absolutely. This government intends to act with transparency, not like the previous one of the PP that used patriotic police to attack rivals, ”Héctor Gómez, spokesman for the socialist party in Congress, assured on Tuesday.
The CSIF asks for explanations
The Independent Trade Union and Civil Servants Central (CSIF) has demanded this Tuesday from the Government “explanations on the reasons that have motivated” the resignation of the president of the INE. The secretary of the UGT, Pepe Álvarez, has also spoken on the matter: “It is ridiculous to question the dismissal and I sincerely believe that if the CPI data or the GDP growth data, or the decrease, are questioned, it is the same, the Government what you have to do is say it and say why you stop it”. And he added: “I do not have elements that allow me to know if there are reasons to question them or not, beyond some renowned economists who I have heard place some contradictions that suppose the set of macroeconomic data that Spain has at the moment ” , has apostilled.
The EH Bildu spokeswoman, Mertxe Izpurua, has assured that she has no information about what is happening at the INE, so she has not wanted to comment. The PNV spokesman, Aitor Esteban, has taken the same line, saying that the controversy escapes him, because he has never seen the Executive publicly question the work of the INE.
Despite this, the statements of members of the Executive in recent months show discontent with the figures reported by the statistical institute. Ministers such as the Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, and the Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, have openly pointed out that the data on tax collection and affiliation indicate a much better evolution of the economy than what is now shown by the INE in its GDP numbers.
The calculation of inflation has been another of the workhorses. The Government criticized that the INE was not computing in its CPI calculations the so-called free electricity rate, the one that covers 60% of families, with which it believed that a runaway price increase could contain something. With the free rate, six out of ten consumers agree on the price with the companies and it is usually more stable —although in the long run more expensive—. Failing that, the inflation data only included the evolution of the regulated rate and, consequently, reflected a higher increase because it is directly linked to the fluctuations in wholesale prices, which have risen sharply since last year.
Therefore, in the opinion of the Executive, the INE has not been able to respond to the problems in calculating the CPI. For its part, the statistical institute has argued that it did not get good data from the power companies. Some rough edges that the Government has tried to iron out without success with a plan to modernize these calculations through greater use of public records to the detriment of surveys.