Sri Lanka economic data integrity under fire

Kris Canekeratne at LBR LBO Tech Conference

Nov 26, 2010 (LBO) – A Sri Lankan economist who is also a lawmaker has queried apparent contradictions in the island’s poverty and consumption data, adding to an ongoing debate on the integrity of the country’s economic statistics. Harsha de Silva, representing Sri Lanka’s main opposition United National Party, said a budget speech had claimed that poverty has suddenly fallen to 7.6 percent from an earlier 15.2 percent.

On the other hand official data themselves seemed to indicate that real incomes had fallen due to high inflation and people were also eating less due to high prices.

Contradiction

“If poverty is down; what has happened to consumption?” de Silva queried in parliament. “If poverty is halved why are people not eating? We have to look into this.”

He said the information quoted in the budget seemed to come from a preliminary survey on household consumption by the country’s statistics office based on a sample of 5,289 households.

The survey conducted during July, August and September 2009, excluded data from war-torn Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu districts.

De Silva said he only had access to public information, and preliminary data so far released to the public had ind