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Peru: “We lack a proper census to know what the country’s current situation is.” Interview F. Matuk

Servindi, August 21, 2011 – Servindi talked with Farid Matuk, former president of the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (INEI), who questions the validity of the official figures from the government led by the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance Party (APRA). He proposes that urgent measures be taken in order to have a better idea of the country’s current situation and to know, for example, whether the indigenous peoples’ situation has improved in the last five years.

Matuk, who worked in Iraq from 2007 to 2010, was the victim of political and judicial persecution personally orchestrated by former President Alan García (2006 – 2011). He currently works for the government of Angola, Africa and announced his upcoming return to Peru on August 19.

- Why aren’t current INEI figures reliable?

The main problem is the lack of transparency in the way the INEI makes decisions regarding the measurement of our country´s economic performance or social progress.

There are two clear examples: In terms of economic measurement, the methodology used starting in 1993 and throughout Fujimori’s first and second terms, the transitional government of Paniagua and Toledo’s administration, was secretly changed in 2006.

“The basic problem is that between 2001 and 2011, García’s administration tampered with the figures making the poverty rate 8 points lower than what it actually was. In other words, the official figure for 2011 is 30%, when in reality the poverty rate stands at 38%. García’s presidency gave 4 points to Toledo’s administration, as well as his own.”

And only the pressure of public opinion allowed the INEI to officially accept that “improvements” had been made to the economic performance measurement in 2009. Now, the problem is not whether they were improvements. The problem is that these changes were kept under wraps for 3 years. Therefore, we do not know what is being accurately measured.

In the case of social measurements, we must take poverty into consideration. In 2006, the poverty rate in Peru was 48%. At that time, APRA questioned this figure and said that it was incorrect. The new poverty rates provided by the APRA government were estimated at 44% for 2006.

In other words, while the INEI reported that poverty had fallen by 6 points (from 54 to 48) during Toledo’s administration, it decreased by 10 points and not 6, thanks to García’s efforts. This was the official measurement at that time.

Similarly, during President García’s term, figures were once again inflated by 4 points, which means that poverty did not decrease during García’s administration by 14 points, as per the official statement, but rather only by 10 points.

- Is this reduction of 10 points reliable?

The figure that I am providing you is based on my own calculations with the limitations of not having complete access to a database. The basic problem is that between 2001 and 2011, García’s administration tampered with the figures making the poverty rate 8 points lower than what it actually was. In other words, the official figure for 2011 is 30%, when in reality the poverty rate stands at 38%. García’s presidency gave 4 points to Toledo’s administration, as well as his own.

- What can you tell us about the indigenous peoples’ situation taking into consideration the peasant and native communities? Are there specific indicators for this sector or have they been ignored in the measurement?

In 2006, the application of the Ongoing Census, which was a continuation of the 2005 Population Census, was abandoned in the design phase. This included a specific question to identify the native peoples of Peru: what is the native language of the interviewee?

This method implied conducting about 400,000 interviews a year and some 2,000 interviews in each of the 125 provinces of the country. In other words, at the end of 2006, we were going to know which provinces, for example, had a majority of inhabitants that spoke one of the native languages of America. Therefore, we would be able to identify the provinces in Peru that had a majority of indigenous peoples.

The Ongoing Census method was going to identify poverty with the basic needs method for the specific indigenous peoples. It was going to allow us to understand their situation with respect to health, education, housing quality, access to decent work, etc. It was a 45-minute questionnaire.

This measurement was financed for 2007 and approved by the Ministry of Economy and the Peruvian Congress, but President García decided to suspend it. Therefore, the design, which was prepared for the indefinite future and which was going to provide, for the first time, a measurement of the indigenous peoples’ situation for each of the country’s 125 provinces, was scrapped.

What we have now is very biased information based on the National Household Survey (ENH), where only 20,000 surveys are taken a year. This does not compare with the 400,000 surveys included in the Ongoing Census.

So, there is a significant difference between the Ongoing Census and the ENH, which is currently conducted. The ENH is conducted with only one household member, and only the head of the household is asked whether he or she belongs to one of the indigenous communities.

All household members older than 5 years of age were asked what their native language was in the Ongoing Census, which was conducted in 2006 and suspended in 2007. Therefore, we were able to get a much clearer idea of all the indigenous peoples that were and do exist in each of the country’s provinces.

- What suggestion would you make to the new government regarding public policies aimed at handling population data?

What I have proposed, based on what has already been done and what is feasible to accomplish, would be to conduct at least 200,000 interviews nationally and 1,000 interviews in each of the 125 provinces in order to compare 2011 with 2006 and to, therefore, compare whether the situation of the indigenous peoples of Peru has improved or gotten worse in these 5 years.

- Does this mean going back to the Ongoing Census?

This would mean resuming the census only in the last quarter of this year. We would conduct 200,000 interviews until the fourth quarter of this year and start with 100,000 interviews per quarter next year. This would give us a very clear idea of Peru’s current situation.

The reality of the country per region and province is quite deceptive because the difference in the regions, specifically between the capital and the rest of the provinces, in some cases, can be as significant as the difference between Lima and the rest of Peru. So, having information based on the regions and departments is so misleading because the importance of the capital is exaggerated, as is the case with Arequipa, Trujillo, Piura, Huancayo and Iquitos. The information conceals much of the reality of the provinces located around these capitals.

- Lastly, what is the state of your affairs? We know that you are the subject of various lawsuits, which are practically a witch hunt. Could you summarize your current state of affairs?

Yes since the beginning, President García has launched a series of personal attacks against me, and, especially, in December 2006. He specifically stated in a press conference that I should be in prison. In 2007, with no judicial process, he said that I was a fugitive from justice on the radio program entitled Radio Programas del Perú. Unfortunately, I have been a victim of harassment at the hands of the president, rather the former president of the Republic. This August 19, I will be arriving in Lima to comply with the summons issued by the Judiciary; I have complied with all previous subpoenas issued until now.

- What are they accusing you of?

In this particular case, they are accusing me and 20 people of having embezzled $20,000 of government funds. In other words, I organized a criminal group of 20 people that stole an amount of money equal to the value of a car. The most inefficient criminal group on earth! In an interview, it was said that this could be the case of corruption with the lowest amount in history. This complaint was explicitly filed by the former president.

*Farid Matuk was the head of the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (INEI). He studied economics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and earned a Master’s Degree in Economics at the University of Ottawa in Canada.


Fuente: Publicada en español en:
Traducción para Servindi de Sylvia Fisher

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2 respuestas

  1. # 1Hector Almendrades dice:

    Si ha estudiado en Lima, porque no hacen la entrevista en castellano?

  2. # 2Servindi dice:

    Ya se hizo y se publicó primero:

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