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Sri Lanka grapples with economic data doctoring

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s new administration will set up an independent committee to examine alleged data doctoring and is also watching an exercise to re-base national income accounts to ensure transparency, Deputy Economic Policy Minister Harsha de Silva said.

"There are issues that we need to sort on the data by both the central bank and the Treasury and also the Department of Census and Statistics," de Silva told reporters Monday.

"The re-basing exercise must be transparently done. We will ensure that it is addressed in a transparent way."

When the model of the economy was last changed and official income statistics generation was shifted from the Central Bank to the Department of Census and Statistics about half a percent in annual growth was added to gross domestic product data.

At the time the weight of the slow growing agriculture sector was reduced. However there was no attempt at the time to reconcile the two data series.

However changing data is fraught with risks especially with Sri Lanka now exposed to global bond markets and rating agencies, analysts say.

"So, If there are any discrepancies we should be able to show the two series data," he said.

"Then we will have to learn to deal with it and be able to explain it to outsiders who would have placed a lot of faith and confidence in the data that the government has presented to the international community.

Deputy Minister de Silva said in an earlier interview with EconomyNext that an independent committee will be formed to examine alleged data doctoring episodes.

While in opposition de Silva has and queried economic data and also raised queries when the statistics office changed the base of the Colombo Consumer Price Index or suddenly scrapped indices such as the country-wide Sri Lanka Consumer Price Index when inflation spiked near 30 percent in September 2007.

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