Progressive economists put administration’s methodology under scrutiny. Over the weekend, critics called into question the validity of the government’s latest biannual National Socioeconomic Characterization (Casen) Survey, which was released Friday to show a relative decrease in poverty from 2009 to 2011.
The Casen results, presented by President Sebastián Piñera and Minister of Social Development Joaquín Lavín, showed a decrease in poverty from 15.1 percent to 14.4 percent and a decrease in extreme poverty from a 3.7 to a 2.8 percent. Despite these decreases, Gonzalo Durán, an economist from the labor think tank Fundación Sol pointed out that non-extreme poverty in Chile actually increased 0.2 percent. Though the Ministry of Social Development called the increase “statistically significant,” Durán argued that the implication was the same.“What the ministry is saying with this is that non-extreme poverty— the bulk of total poverty— stayed almost the same,” he told Cooperativa. “This is not a minor figure, because we are comparing a survey from the year 2009, when we were in a global economic crisis, with a survey from the year 2011, where the survey applies to a country with an economy growing at a rate of 6 percent.” Another economist at Fundación Sol, Marcos Kremerman, also criticized the prematurity of the survey, as the margin of error for the findings have yet to be released. “This means the numbers may go either up or down,” he told El Mostrador. “The 14.4 percent could actually be a 13 percent or a 16 percent, depending on whether the margin of error is big or not. We must wait until we find out what the margin is, in order to know whether the decrease in poverty is statistically significant so that correct analysis can be done” Upon presenting the Casen results, Minister Lavín said the margin of error would come out in “the following days.” Political opponents of the Piñera piled on to the criticism. Former ministers from the administration of socialist President Michelle Bachelet took turns ripping into the government’s presentation of the survey at a press conference on Saturday, calling it a “national embarrassment.” Lavín reacted by calling for solidarity. “I do not wish to enter a political discussion, but I am saddened by this,” Lavín stated. “I have seen the reaction of Bachelet’s former ministers, and it is almost as if they would have preferred if poverty had gone up.” The Piñera administration also focused on the fact that poverty increased for the first time since 1990 under Bachelet’s administration. “One in four countrymen living in extreme poverty have overcome that situation,” President Piñera said. “There is no doubt that this should cause happiness and satisfaction among all Chileans, whether they are for the government or opposed to it.” Complete results of the 2011 survey will be released in a month’s time. By Sumy Sadurni (firstname.lastname@example.org) Copyright 2012 - The Santiago Times