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Methods of generating, processing of official statistics transparent

This refers to Conrado Banal III’s column titled “Fake it to me gently” (Business, 8/13/15).

As researchers and advocates of evidence-based decision-making, we welcome healthy debates on measurements, data and methodologies as these are useful in enhancing the quality of official statistics. This is why we strive to be transparent in the use of terms, technical definitions, data generation and methodologies for processing and analysis of official statistics. The process of arriving at these is also subject to debates and consultations within and outside of government.

Official poverty statistics, including the country’s poverty threshold, for example, are generated by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) through the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) and the Annual Poverty Indicator Survey (APIS). Poverty thresholds, including the periodic adjustments made, are based on sound methodology and best practices agreed upon by an interagency technical committee of experts on measurement. The methodology is applied consistently—regardless of how this affects the resulting poverty incidence data—from one survey year to another; so, the official poverty data are comparable across time. For transparency, changes in official poverty measurement and corresponding poverty data generated from the methodology are posted on the PSA website (www.psa.gov.ph) for the public to scrutinize and discuss in healthy debates.

Sadly, Banal, who is very fond of word play as is evident in his columns, does not seem to have a high regard for accuracy and chose not to engage himself in healthy debates. Instead of checking for himself the facts and figures, he conveniently cited the views of others (and we do not know how accurately and faithfully he represented those views) even as he hid behind “some groups” and “critics” in accusing government of “manipulation” and “misuse” of statistics to “polish the image” of President Aquino.

For the information of Banal and the public, the schedule for the release of official statistics is predetermined; PSA, as an independent body, strictly enforces its embargo policy and releases such statistics as scheduled, whether or not the results are favorable to the administration. Other government agencies like the National Economic and Development Authority can only explain the possible reasons for any result, which is part of the practice of accountability.

While we do acknowledge the limits of statistical and technical discussions insofar as engaging the broader public, we maintain that rigorous technical discussions are necessary, precisely to avoid politicized and subjective policy- and decision-making in government.

We hope that this letter will also make the public aware of the government’s processes in conducting surveys and generating official statistics.

—ARSENIO M. BALISACAN, PhD, economic planning secretary and National Economic and Development Authority director general

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