domingo, 23 de mayo de 2010


By: Felipe Argote

To analyze economic indicators is like painting a cloth. With the same palette and brush even using the same colors can result in art or motivate loathing.

If we read the numbers of the Ministry of Economy and Finance in its last publication that includes February and March this year, we see that the basic food basket was B/272.30, just 0.91 more than the previous month. According to analysts of the MEF, whose figures are official, however this amount is less than the same B/0.95 March last year. The ACODECO, meanwhile, has submitted a report stating that the basic food basket has declined further in April, causing the anger of the majority of the population, which has the feeling that your money every time buy less.

About ACODECO analysis I will say no comments, because it doesn’t have any scientific rigor.

To understand the position of the majority that feels that there is a diminished quality of life, we must briefly explain how we analyze the basic food basket.

The basic family basket is the price paid to cover the basic needs for an average family in Panama. This is 3.8 members. So a family of five members who told only needs B/272.3 to feed in a month gets angry every time they watch a public bureaucrat on television trying to make him understand that what he says true. If the family is five members, always following the numbers of MEF, would need B/358.29, if seven would need B/501.61.

To establish this basket, they have to calculate the caloric needs of people each day, multiply by seven (days), then by 52 (weeks) and then divided by twelve to see the monthly requirement of calories. Finally multiply by the average (3.8 people). Then, these needs are filled with the proportions of meat (15.84%), cereals (47.8%), vegetables and vegetables (4.33%), legumes (2.38%), fruits (1.67%), fat (10.58%), milk (5.75%) , eggs (0.79%), sugar (6.89%) and miscellaneous (4.71%). To this is added the cost of gas for cooking (B/0.37 per day per person)

Of course, to cover the item could take hock or beef steak, if we take one or the other very different prices. Or we could take within the potato product, the price of a five-pound bag of potatoes at Price-Smart or in another supermarket as Extra or super 99 to develop our average. In one bag may be more expensive, but the potatoes are better and his weight advantage, while another may be cheaper per pound, but each bag will have a rotten potato, so even when cheaper, to match the nutritional volume of the first would have to pay for a pound and a quarter. But for statistical purposes as if the pound takes the whole bag to be good.

Then a monthly variation is not very sensitive to the consumer unless the jump in prices is like to compete with those of Saladino. If there was a significant increase last year and the previous one, if this year is a small decrease in price, consumers should not be satisfied when the expectation was to return to the levels of two years ago and even below.

Consider the trend. The basket as we know it was organized in 2002. At that time cost B/187.30. If it is currently in B/272.30, that means an increase of 45.38%. Some optimists say that it happened during eight years. Right, but there was a stepwise increase. Only in early 2008 the cost of the basket was B/239.05. That means that in six years it rose 27.63%. (4.6% annually). In January last year had risen to B/270.60. This is an increase of 13% over the previous year. In February of that same year was raised to B/272.3 and B/273.25 and March, 14% compared to January 2008. In January this year had dropped to B/271.00. Then if in March of this year 2010 the basic basket is B/272.3 means B/1.30 has been raised regarding the beginning of the year. It is naive to think that people will believe the myth that the basket has declined because in March last year was in B/273.35.

It's like being put under a temperature of 90 degrees, then you raise the thermostat to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, then you raise it again at 120 degrees. When you are about to suffocate you go down to 119.5 degrees and pretend to smile with the argument that the heat has diminished.

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