Officials left juggling numbers to justify 4 percent GDP growth

ISLAMABAD: Apparently, on pressure of the Finance Ministry, the Pakistan Statistical Bureau (PSB) has been forced to find justifications to show improved Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) growth figures close to 4 percent for the outgoing fiscal 2011/12.


The PSB, Secretary Statistics Division Sohail Ahmed on Friday announced to present the growth figures and the re-basing methodology before the Advisory Governing Council to get validation on results that were already made public on Thursday. The base year for calculating GDP growth percent was moved from 199/200 to 2005/2006.


The authorities have taken a summersault within 24 hours of unveiling the provisional GDP growth figure of 3.2 percent for 2011/12.


The top guns of Statistics Division told the media that there was no pressure on them either from Minister of Finance or his Ministry for showing improved growth figures. The Finance Ministry seems perturbed with lower growth than anticipated by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.


The minister had claimed before the multilateral donors that the country would achieve GDP growth of 4 percent in the outgoing fiscal, but the National Accounts Committee (NAC) approved GDP growth figure of 3.2 percent for 2011/12.


“Yes, we committed a mistake by not stressing upon one fact that the actual figure of GDP growth was revised upward from 2.4 percent to 3 percent. The jacked up base resulted into decreasing GDP growth of outgoing fiscal year by 0.6 percent and showing 3.2 percent growth which otherwise would have been close to 3.8 percent of GDP,” Secretary Statistics Division Sohail Ahmed said while briefing reporters on Friday.


“We don’t have pressure from any side and wanted to get input of economic experts on these results,” Ahmed further said.


PBS Director General Arif Mehmood Cheema said that the Governing Council, which came into being after enactment of new PSB law for granting autonomy of statistical bureau, would meet next week for reviewing the GDP growth figures and re-basing methodology. He said that PBS would defend the GDP growth figure of 3.2 percent that was calculated keeping in view international standards.


On re-basing of GDP growth exercise from 1999/2000 to 2005/06, various questions were raised even by members of NAC on Thursday, such as Secretary Planning Division Asif Bajwa inquired that why value of banking services decreased by Rs100 billion that would also cause reduction in per capita income during the current fiscal year.


During the press briefing, PBS DG Cheema said that it was internationally accepted practice that money transfer is not considered service in banking sector and services are only considered which banks offer to their customers.


The Secretary Statistics Division said that the IMF asked Pakistan to prepare quarterly GDP data in accordance with Special Data Dissemination System (SDDS). “We will start calculating GDP growth on quarterly basis from coming December 2012,” he added.