Pakistan Bureau of Statistics advises Imran's govt against census verification

Cites high cost of nearly Rs8b for verifying only 5% of the results


Shahbaz Rana April 09, 2019
A census team in Karachi. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Monday suggested to the government to nullify the decision regarding independent verification of results of the 6th Population Census but the latter shied away from taking the decision apparently due to political compulsions.

The proposal was made during a meeting of the PBS Governing Council chaired by Minister for Planning and Development Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar.

The PBS made the suggestion due to technical hitches and huge financial cost of nearly Rs8 billion for verifying only 5% of the results of the 6th Population Census.

The council was told that demographics had significantly changed since the holding of the census and it would not be technically feasible to conduct the sample verification, said a PBS official.

However, Bakhtiar did not take a decision and asked the PBS to submit a report, which he would present before the federal cabinet, he added.

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The last PML-N government had decided to verify 5% results of the census after Sindh claimed that its population had been understated by at least 10 million people. Subsequently, an agreement was reached between the then government and opposition parties to carry out a third party verification of the results.

Afterward, the PML-N government suspended the process of independent verification due to differences between the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and the Senate over the modalities of the exercise.

Due to a dispute over third-party verification, the CCI has not yet approved the final results. According to the provisional population census, the country’s total population was 207.684 million as of 2017.

The last general elections were held on the basis of the provisional population results.

The Governing Council approved the proposal of rebasing the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from fiscal year 2007-8 to 2015-16, according to a handout that the Planning Ministry issued after the meeting.

The rebasing was long overdue and the exercise was completed in December 2017 and a technical committee had cleared it for presentation in the council, said the ministry.

The decision would be fully implemented from July this year but from next month the PBS would give two parallel inflation figures, one based on 2008 basing and the other one on the basis of 2015-16 prices.

The government has recently disputed the inflation figure of 9.4% that the PBS had announced for the month of March. It has now set up a committee under the chair of an economist, Dr Asad Zaman. The committee will review the inflation methodology.

The PBS was placed under the Planning and Development Division after the government abolished the Statistics Division.

The Planning Ministry said that under the new base, the PBS would compile Urban Consumer Price Index (UCPI), Rural Consumer Price Index (RCPI) and National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) on a monthly basis. Previously, PBS only compiled UCPI to determine inflation in the country.

“There is a need for authentic data collection for better policy and decision making,” said Bakhtiar, urging the PBS to devise a mechanism to deliver more reliable official figures relating to the economy, population, agriculture, trade, and other areas.

The minister stressed the need to ascertain the real impact of an increase in gas and electricity prices as well as prices of essential food items for consumers falling in different categories.

He was apprised that poor consumers falling in the lowest slab had not been affected much by the increase in prices of gas and electricity due to protective cover given by the government.

The meeting was apprised that the 5th meeting of the Governing Council of the PBS had decided to rebase the National Accounts Committee and Price Statistics after every 10 years.

Subsequently, a technical committee under the chairmanship of former PIDE vice-chancellor Dr Asad Zaman was constituted, which recommended changing the base. The new base will be published after the approval by the ECC.

The planning minister also directed the authorities to expedite the process for the smooth functioning of the PBS.

It was also decided that the PBS would conduct the Pakistan Demographic Survey periodically and try to resolve the issue in consultation with NADRA and local governments. PBS is critical for capturing changing demographic patterns in the country.

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