Spain’s stats chief quits over reluctance to ‘fudge’ economic figures: press

The head of Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) has resigned in a move the opposition and part of the press blames on differences with the country’s left-wing government over poor economic growth and inflation figures.

juan manuel rodriguez poo ine
Juan Manuel Rodríguez Poo was INE's director from 2018 to 2022. Photo: INE

In a statement released late on Monday, the economy ministry said INE president Juan Rodríguez Poo had “expressed his desire to step down for personal reasons”.

Poo’s departure from the institute, an independent body which is affiliated with the ministry, came after he oversaw a “process of modernisation and strengthening” at the INE, which he has helmed since October 2018, it said.

But El País and several other newspapers said Poo had resigned in a bid to avoid being pushed out by the government over a disagreement about the INE’s methodology for calculating indicators such as gross domestic product and inflation.

Last Friday, the INE revised down Spain’s first-quarter growth figures to 0.2 percent, from 0.3 percent, confirming the pace of economic expansion had slowed sharply in the context of high global inflation and market tension as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

And in recent months, the INE has also released statistics showing rising inflation in Spain, which in March hit a peak of 9.8 percent, the highest level in 37 years.

Some analysts have expressed doubt about the INE’s estimates, signalling certain discrepancies between the weak growth figures and the strong data on job creation.

Spanish opposition leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who heads the right-wing Popular Party (PP), also criticised Poo’s departure, blaming political considerations.

“Dismissing the head of the INE because the government does not agree with Spain’s official statistics on economic growth and inflation is without doubt an error which affects (the country’s) credibility, trustworthiness and reputation,” he said.

“No head of the statistics institute has ever been dismissed, except during a change of government,” he charged.

The PP has in recent days criticised Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for his attempts “to control state resources as much as he can” after his party lost to the right in the June 19 regional elections in Andalusia, formerly a bastion of the Socialists.

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VIDEO: ‘Take your ties off’, Spain’s PM says in bid to save energy

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has made a bizarre callout by asking office workers across the country to follow his lead in ditching their ties as a means of using less air-conditioning, and thus saving energy.

VIDEO: 'Take your ties off', Spain's PM says in bid to save energy

In a move some might be surprised was even necessary given Spain’s famously hot climate, Sánchez urged office workers to follow his own tie-free lead.

“As you can see, I’m not wearing a tie,” said Sánchez, smiling broadly, pointing to his open neck shirt during a news conference in Madrid on Friday.

Click on the play button below to watch the video:

Feeling a little more comfortable would save energy if it resulted in less air-conditioning being used, he said.

“This means that we can all save energy,” he argued, adding that he had asked all ministers and public officials to stop wearing ties and hoped the private sector would also follow suit.

The Spanish government is on Monday set to adopt a set of “urgent” energy-saving measures, Sánchez said, “in line with what other European countries do”, without elaborating.

Following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Commission released in mid-May a €210-billion plan aiming to boost renewable energies and reduce energy consumption to put an end to dependency on Russian gas.

In response, Spain has adopted several measures including encouraging remote work and the limiting of air conditioning in offices in summer and radiators in winter.

The 27 EU states also agreed on Tuesday “to reduce their gas demand by 15 percent compared to their average consumption in the past five years, between August 1st 2022 and March 31st 2023, with measures of their own choice,” the European Council said in a statement.

Several German cities said this week they would step up efforts to save energy, with Hanover in the north announcing plans to only offer cold showers at public pools and sports centres and Berlin switching off spotlights illuminating its historic monuments.