Growth & inflation statistics.

OUR inflation data compiled by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) is one the best datasets in the country. Its coverage is wide and not only does it follow data quality standards but also maintains excellent dissemination standards. Look at the various indices compiled: NCPI, UCPI, RCPI, UCPI-NFNE, RCPI-NFNE, UCPI-Trim, RCPI-Trim, WPI and SPI. These are the consumer price indices for the country, the urban areas, the rural areas, core CPI, excluding food and energy, for urban and rural, core trims of CPI for urban and rural, wholesale price index (WPI) and the sensitive price index (SPI). What do they say about inflation? Are we always overwhelmingly concerned about inflation? Inflation in the entire country and, more distinctively, in the urban and rural areas?

Citizens are concerned as high inflation squeezes their budgets and they, resultantly, suffer. Citizens, however, are not necessarily concerned with all the indices above. To them, the SPI (it is in the news every week) and CPI for the entire country matter the most. It is good that citizens are kept informed about price changes. Should not PBS keep us informed about GDP or real sector data more frequently? One can argue that even in the complete absence of inflation data, citizens have a good sense of day-to-day prices because they shop every day. But they perhaps know less about growth and employment data. Hence, growth and employment data are more important to disseminate.

Informing citizens about what is happening in the economy is only one of the objectives of statistics compilation and dissemination. A more important objective of growth and inflation data is for policymakers to analyse the data and take timely, appropriate actions to contain inflation and promote growth - and to balance these competing aims. Another important objective is for researchers and analysts to produce proposals or critiques to inform and guide policymakers and citizens. From this angle, those indices which are useful to citizens, policymakers, and researchers alike are far more important. Meanwhile, urban and rural CPI is seen as less important than the national CPI. National policymakers (ie fiscal, and monetary authorities) should emphasise national inflation and national growth numbers while taking policy decisions.

International best practices do not require finance ministers to govern statistical agencies.

Despite a profusion of price statistics, two important indices are missing from PBS...

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