The Washington Post�s problem with numbers: Mexico after NAFTA
By Seth Sandronsky
Journal Contributing Writer
May 30, 2006, 00:50
On April 17, the Washington Post ran an article about
Mexico�s economy and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which
took effect on January 1, 1994. Part of the focus was on market forces
and the flight of some Mexicans to the U.S.
�Still, the past 13 years haven't been all bad economic news
for Mexico,� wrote Manuel Roig-Franzia of the Post�s Foreign Service.
�Spurred by NAFTA, Mexico's gross domestic product has ballooned, multiplying
nearly seven-fold, from $108 billion in 1993, the year before NAFTA
implementation, to $748 billion in 2005.�
If the Post�s data for Mexico�s GDP, or the market price of
all goods and services produced within the country annually, was correct, it
would be a world record for economic growth, according to economist Dean Baker,
co-director of Center for Economic and Policy Review. Thus, economists
and staff at the CEPR repeatedly contacted the Post concerning the assertion
that Mexico�s GDP grew at a 17.5 percent annual rate over the past 13 years.
In fact, Mexico�s GDP grew at a 2.9 percent annual rate
since 1993, the International Monetary Fund states on its Web site. Mexico�s
per person GDP growth was 1.3 percent per year from 1993 to 2005 versus GDP
growth per person of nearly 4.0 percent per year between 1960 and 1980, Baker
Crucially, the Mexican economy as measured by GDP grew at an
annual rate six times slower than what the Post reported for the 13 years
ending in 2005. This is no small error for the top paper in the capital
city of the U.S.
Does the IMF have a lock on growth figures for Mexico?
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
and the World Bank also have GDP data for Mexico. And as of May 26, the
Post had not printed a correction to its April 17 article, which reported that
the Mexican economy �has ballooned� between 1993 and 2005.
Still, the paper�s ombudsman wrote on May 7: �The Washington
Post is committed to correcting all errors that appear in the newspaper, just
as we are committed to the kind of careful journalism that will minimize the
number of errors we print. Preventing and correcting mistakes are two sides
of the coin of our realm: accuracy. Accuracy is our goal, and candor is our
The April 17 article ran on the front page of the
Post. If the paper corrects the reporter�s error on Mexico�s GDP, will
this admission find a home on page one?
Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of
"Because People Matter," Sacramento's progressive paper. He can be
reached at email@example.com.
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