Sri Lanka services sector GDP under-reported

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product and growth may be under-reported due to new service sector activities not being captured and low response to surveys, and the state statistics office is adopting new measures, a minister said.

"I have a big issue with the growth numbers that are coming out," National Policies and Economic Affairs State Minister Harsha de Silva said at a forum organized by the Institute of Policy Studies earlier this month.

"There are underestimations in the services sector," he said.

Technology enabled activities done through services such as the ride sharing mobile app PickMe and online booking engines like Airbnb are not being properly recorded, de Silva said.

"So there’s a lot of activity happening. The question is whether we’re able to measure that," he said.

The minister said that discussions have taken place with the Census and Statistics Department, which compiles Sri Lanka’s economic growth.

He said that according to the department director general, the frequency of surveys done on the service sector had worked against getting a clearer picture, and it is now in the process of shifting from annual surveys to quarterly surveys.

The department had also outlined that methodology used to capture service sector data is no longer adequate, and requires overhaul, de Silva said.

"So, we have begun to address the issues, but what the director general says is we’re facing the problem of low response," he said.

"So they’re planning to use alternatives, for example publicity."





"Hopefully the numbers will start to reflect what is happening in the services sector."

The IPS, in its latest ‘State of the Economy’ publication had said that the services sector performance had been marginally below GDP from 2015 to 2017 (It had been at current market prices, and doing so only in 2016 under constant prices).

De Silva said that this too was not a case of services lagging behind general economic growth, but activities in the sector not being captured properly.

The Census and Statistics Department regularly re-bases the GDP figures to get a more accurate measurement of economic growth . The last revision was in 2015, which rebased to 2010 from an earlier base of the year 2002. (Colombo/Oct22/2018)

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