Just how much poverty is there in Chile? According to the government of President Sebastian Piñera, it stands at 14.4 percent, down from the 15 percent registered in 2009, the last year of his predecessor Michelle Bachelet’s center-left government. But serious questions have been raised about this figure, with a report last week http://ciperchile.cl/2012/08/31/las-desconocidas-gestiones-del-gobierno-ante-la-cepal-que-lograron-bajar-los-indices-de-pobreza/ by the Centro de Investigacion Periodistica (CIPER) that the government put pressure on the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to make a more optimistic assessment than the data warranted.
The Financial Times correspondent Jude Webber has a good summary of the controversy, noting that in neighboring Argentina official economic figures are “devoid of credibility” but that Chile is a long way from that situation:http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2012/09/03/chilean-poverty-data-contoversey-reveals-tough-truths-about-countrys-growth/#axzz25ULGe7yL
At the center of this controversy is Joaquin Lavin, minister for social development, who holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago and is the author of Chile: una revolución silenciosa, which was translated in English and other languages and distributed by Chilean embassies during the Pinochet regime. A ministry employee working on the poverty study told CIPER http://ciperchile.cl/2012/08/31/tecnico-de-mideplan-que-pidio-a-cepal-recalcular-la-pobreza-%E2%80%9Cme-senti-usado-por-el-ministro-lavin%E2%80%9D/ he had warned his superiors that the data showed no significant drop in poverty since 2009, but that the government announced otherwise.
And a bizarre footnote: yesterday the Wikipedia bio entry for Lavin contained a photograph not of the minister but of….Bill Gates. It was corrected today.