By Dow Jones Business News,
February 14, 2014, 08:03:00 PM EDT
By Taos Turner
BUENOS AIRES--A day after reporting the highest inflation in over a decade, Argentina's government fined several
retail chains, including France'sCarrefour SA and U.S.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for failing to stock certain price-
Commerce Secretary Augusto Costa said, in a presentation to reporters, the government fined Carrefour about $
167,000 and Wal-Mart around $77,500. The companies were allegedly found to have an incomplete stock of certain products
that they agreed to sell at capped prices. Changomas, also owned by Wal-Mart, was fined about $41,000. Other local
retail firms were also fined.
Last month, retailers agreed to freeze the prices of around 200 basic goods--ranging from detergent to milk to
condoms--to fight inflation that economists say likely surpasses 30% annually.
At the time, retailers said the agreement could lead to supply problems if manufacturers of certain goods curbed
production of products that yielded little or no profit or, in some cases, directly led to losses.
Carrefour and Wal-Mart couldn't be reached for comment.
The fines come a day after Economy Minister Axel Kicillof announced a change in the methodology to measure price
increases and reported that consumer prices rose 3.7% in January from the previous month. This was the first time in
seven years that the government has acknowledged that the country has high inflation.
For years, the government said that annual inflation totaled around 10%--a number so implausibly low that it led
the International Monetary Fund to censure Argentina and order a change in methodology to calculate key indicators
The fines also come a week after political activists allied with the government plastered this capital city with
poster-size photos of retail executives accusing them of fueling inflation by raising prices.
The posters featured portraits of executives from the local units of Wal-Mart, Carrefour and other companies. "
These are the people who steal your salary," the posters said. "They raised the price of everything to take your money."
On Friday, Mr. Kicillof defended the government from critics while placing blame for inflation on businesses. "The
government doesn't raise prices," Mr. Kicillof said. "Some businesses may occasionally be justified in raising prices,
but in most cases there can be no justification for this," he said.
Mr. Kicillof criticized economists who say that high public spending is causing prices to rise. "They say that
public spending is very high and that it's inflationary," he said. "Gentlemen, why don't you take your masks off and say
where exactly you think the government should cut spending."
Write to Taos Turner at email@example.com
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