Economists puzzled as govt stops releasing monthly inflation data

Staff Correspondent | Published: 23:17, May 16,2017

 
 

A file photo shows a vendor selling vegetables to a customar at a market in Dhaka. The government has stopped releasing monthly inflation data since March, at a time when the prices of essential commodities started to rise, leaving economists puzzled. — New Age photo

The government has stopped releasing monthly inflation data since March, at a time when the prices of essential commodities started to rise, leaving economists puzzled.
Instead, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics has decided to release the data on a quarterly basis, said the government’s statistical body in a press release issued on Tuesday.
Officials said that the BBS under the planning ministry took the decision being instructed by planning minister AHM Mustafa Kamal though the bureau is completely capable to produce the data in the first week of every month.
Economists, however, described the decision as ‘outrageous’ and completely ‘unacceptable’.
They also said that the decision would push back the country in generating and utilising quality data.
The government should shun such culture of not releasing data whenever the data is not favorable, they said, adding that data should not be administered according to ‘likes and dislikes’ of a person.
The BBS also released the quarterly consumer price index (CPI) for the first time in the country though earlier it would be published every month.
According to the BBS data, point-to-point inflation in the third quarter (January 17-March 17) of the current fiscal year 2016-2017 declined to 5.28 per cent from that of 5.32 per cent in second quarter (October 16-December 16) though general inflation was rising in the country since January.
BBS data showed that point-to-point inflation stood at 5.39 per cent in March which was 5.31 per cent and 5.15 per cent in February and January respectively.
Inflation situation became worse in April as the price of many essential commodities like rice became costlier.
The BBS usually would release the inflation data within second week of a month but Kamal, after taking the charge of planning ministry, started to release the data within first week.
Kamal on Tuesday at a post-ECNEC press briefing said, ‘I took the decision [releasing inflation data quarterly instead of monthly] for my comfort.’
He said that data was not available on time in every month and there was possibility to make mistakes to collect data hastily.
‘So considering the issues, we took the decision not to release the inflation data on a monthly basis,’ he said, adding that from now on, CPI index, known as inflation data, would be published only on a quarterly basis.
The BBS, however, stopped to provide food and non-food inflation in its quarterly CPI index.
BBS said that the prices of some food items including rice, Hilsha fish, shrimp, Tengra fish, meat, mutton, green chilli, soyabean oil, tea and milk increased in the third quarter compared with that of in second quarter of the fiscal year.
At the same time, the prices of some non-food items like clothes, energy and power, house rent, furniture and household items, medical services, transport and educational equipments also increased.
Policy Research Institute executive director Ahsan H Mansur told New Age that the BBS had been releasing the inflation data and CPI index on a monthly basis for decades and the bureau had also achieved the capacity to release the data within the first week of every month because of automation.
In this context, the decision of releasing the data quarterly is not acceptable at all, he said.
‘We are stepping back instead of moving forward through the decision,’ he said, terming the decision as ‘outrageous’ and ‘bad’.
Every country produces the data monthly, even weekly, he said.
‘We should come out from the culture in which releasing data will be stopped if it looks bad,’ he said.
Statistics should be allowed to flow freely without intervention, he said.
Centre for Policy Dialogue research fellow Towfiqul Islam Khan said that real time quality data was critical for economic policy decisions.
More frequent data is always desirable to understand macroeconomic trend and take necessary policy actions, he said.
From this perspective, release of CPI index on a monthly basis is desirable, he said.  

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