In a major blow to the credibility of official economic data, the Statistics Division has found serious discrepancies in figures reported by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), seeking constitution of a committee to investigate the matter.
The Statistics Division has raised concerns about the authenticity of statistics reported in the Pakistan Statistical Year Book, according to official documents.
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The book comprises data on agriculture, industry, services, domestic and international trade, public finance, national accounts, health and education indicators, prices and literacy rate.
“The publication (statistical year book) full of flaws, discrepancies and old information will defame the PBS nationally and internationally as a large number of students, researchers, academia and data pickers use statistics of the PBS,” was the note written by a director of the Statistics Division.
He further wrote that a detailed analysis of each of the PBS publication was required through a committee, which may be constituted. He proposed a four-member body for the purpose.
The Statistics Division is calling for fixing the responsibility for negligence in compiling the economic data. Huge expenses are made on gathering the data and publication of the annual statistics book.
The concerns have been raised at a time when the PBS is in the process of preparing national accounts for the current fiscal year.
This is for the first time that a government department has questioned the credibility of statistics produced by its sister organisation. Both the Statistics Division and PBS are housed in a same building. However, the PBS is being run as a personal fiefdom, thanks to a tailor-made law.
The PBS did not comment on the development.
The government has come under a lot of flak in the wake of claims of early economic recovery, which was not supported by the data gathered by independent economists.
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The trio of former finance minister Dr Hafiz Pasha, former State Bank of Pakistan governor Shahid Kardar and former economic adviser to the Ministry of Finance Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan has long been exposing the alleged manipulation of statistics.
Pasha challenged the government’s claim of achieving over 4% economic growth in fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15, proving with statistics that actual expansion each year was not more than 3.5%.
Similarly, he along with independent economists challenged the claim of reduction in budget deficit to 5.3% of national output in the last fiscal year. According to them, the actual deficit, excluding circular debt, stood at 6.4%.
Data same as in last year
Highlighting some of the discrepancies, the Statistics Division noted that the manufacturing chapter in the statistical year book 2014 was the same as in the previous year.
The manufacturing data was not only outdated but also had a number of flaws. Similarly, explanatory notes given for national accounts - one of the most important economic figures - were also outdated.
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The price description was not up to date. The Statistics Division also had concerns about the data on energy, mining, capital markets and labour.
A historical note, written by a former provincial census commissioner and head of the provincial PBS bureau, gives some insight into how work is being done in the PBS headquarters, which also explains the collection of data.
“Survey teams are normally conducting their surveys without the knowledge of district authorities of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” noted former provincial PBS bureau head Fazli Rabbi after field visits of the bureau’s regional offices in the province.
He wrote that such surveys would be “substandard, faulty as well as may be fake”. He noted that the regional offices were conducting the surveys without proper monitoring by the PBS headquarters.
Moreover, according to the note, the survey teams are sent in to the field without required training.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2016.
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