Since a few days, a massive advertising campaign on the evolution of the purchasing power of households, based on spurious comparisons with the figures published by the Insee was launched on the initiative of a large distribution group. It artificially between conceptually different sizes the purchasing power of households all, taking into account the increase in the population, on the one hand, and the household purchasing power, on the other hand and puts forward questionable quantifications for 2003, year for which statistics will be available in April.
It is true that the changeover to the euro has blurred the benchmarks of our fellow citizens on price. Since this date, the perception that the French have inflation diverges significantly the measurement given by the consumer price index calculated by Insee. They are not alone in this case: this shift is observed in the other countries of the euro area. But this persistent discrepancy fuels concern on the real evolution of prices and purchasing power in our country.
The price index increased by 2.2 in 2003 (and 1.6 excluding tobacco). Perception consumers have of inflation is significantly higher. Are they wrong Step exactly. Then, the thermometer is failing Not more: French price index is recognized far beyond our borders an audit of the IMF in 2003 the deemed exemplary and the perfect conduct of those who calculate is indisputable. Yet, despite appearances, the subjective point of view of households in the evolution of prices and the measurement given by the price index are not irreconcilable. To be convinced, he must return to the definition of the index of prices, such that it is set by the international standards to which the France complies.
The consumer price index of households is designed to track, between two data, the variation in average price of all products consumed by households, from a sample of 180.000 identified price each month for a set of goods and services representative of consumption of all household. The consumer, it is of course particularly sensitive to certain components of the index of prices even to certain specific products of particular brands including food, energy, sometimes tobacco, all products frequently purchase. However, some of these products and services have increased significantly faster index in 2003: 4.4 for fresh products, affected by the heat wave, up 5.9 for chocolate products, 30 for the tobacco price was highly noted for purposes of public health, to name just a few examples. By contrast, prices of other products have been much wiser: thus, durable capital goods are down by more than 10 in one year for computers, cameras or audiovisual.
But the sense of a "hidden inflation" is also fuelled by the rapid renewal of the products for sale, particularly in the large distribution, renewal that often accompanies an improvement of their quality and their prices sometimes. However, if the price index takes into account the renewal of products, it does not import, however, price increases when they correspond to an increase in the "service" by the product. This is a deliberate, consistent with international standards and regulatory European choice: for example, if a dishwasher model is replaced by another, more energy-efficient or quieter, a statistical estimation, in terms of price, of these improvements will be withdrawn for the calculation of the index.
However, the price increases linked to the renewal of products and innovation is a real subject, which concerns the whole of European Statisticians: this is why the Insee has undertaken an assessment of the impact of quality on national indices adjustments. By April, he will be able to give an assessment.
The price index holds a prominent place in economic life. It is not abnormal that he is the subject of debate. The Insee wishes that this debate is taking place on a rigorous basis and polemical spirit. For its part, will ensure not only to maintain the quality of the index of prices at the highest level, but also to provide the necessary to the best information of all lighting elements.