FE Today Logo

BBS yet to unveil GDP, other data

FHM Humayan Kabir | July 08, 2021 00:00:00

Delay in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimation has created a mess among the researchers and businesses concerned, as the government's statistical department is yet to disclose the country's output data, insiders said on Monday.

The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) has so far failed to reveal its provisional estimation on the country's economy size and relevant statistics of the last fiscal year (FY), 2020-21, and finalise those of the previous FY.

Although the BBS's data on per capita income and total GDP size was disclosed on May 18 by Planning Minister M A Mannan, the overall statistics on the output is still not available.

Economists and researchers said the unavailability of data had not only chucked Bangladesh into a black-hole during the Covid pandemic impact period, but formulating possible policies and measures for the recovery had also become difficult for the country.

The data gap is also affecting investments and businesses, as different government bodies, foreign and local investors, and international organisations are waiting for the data, they added.

Planning Minister M A Mannan, after the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting on May 18, told journalists that the country's GDP size for the FY 2021 had picked up to US$ 355.04 billion even after severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy.

He informed journalists that Bangladesh's per capita GNI (gross national income) had also boosted to $2,227 in the FY 2021.

When asked further about the FY 2021 GDP, Mr Mannan and the BBS officials declined to elaborate about GDP and its growth at constant price.

Ziauddin Ahmed, a BBS director, told journalists that they had sought approval of their file regarding GDP from the higher authorities concerned.

"Only after the approval of the file, we can disclose the entire statistics relating to GDP."

In August 2020, the national statistical body, in a provisional estimation, showed that Bangladesh's economy grew at 5.24 per cent rate in the FY 2020.

The BBS usually provides the GDP data and statistics after the third quarter of every fiscal year.

In the FY 2019, the government disclosed the GDP data in March 2019, when the country's GDP growth (provisional) was estimated at 8.13 per cent.

But in the FY 2020, the BBS delayed to provide the provisional estimation of GDP, and unveiled it in August 2020.

When asked, a director of the BBS, requesting for anonymity, told the FE on Monday that they were not authorised to talk about the GDP.

"Our top boss (the planning minister) will comment on the issue. I am not authorised to talk about it," he added.

The FE correspondent repeatedly tried to talk to BBS Director General (DG) Md Tajul Islam as well as Statistics and Informatics Division Secretary Mohammad Yamin Chowdhury over telephone, but failed.

The correspondent had also sent short messages to both the DG and the secretary, requesting their comments on the delay in disclosing GDP data. But they had not replied until filing the report.

Meanwhile, the government had set a revised target of GDP growth at 6.1 per cent for the current FY, 2021-22.

When asked, the planning minister told the FE that the GDP data was hopefully ready for disclosure.

"I will check it with the BBS within a day or two, and then will let you know about the output data and statistics of the country," M A Mannan added.

Former World Bank (WB) Lead Economist Dr Zahid Hussain said they were failing to assess the economic trend of the country due to absence of proper data and statistics on GDP of the last two fiscal years.

"Not only the local researchers, but foreign organisations, business houses and investors are also waiting for the data. They usually procure those from the IMF, WB or Asian Development Bank. But the GDP data of last two years are not available yet," the economist also said.

The WB, in its latest report, had not taken the BBS's provisional GDP data on the FY 2020.

For the FY, the WB in its Bangladesh Development Update showed that the country had grown at 2.4 per cent rate (estimation) in the FY 2020 and 3.6 per cent (forecast) in the FY 2021. It also forecasted 5.1 per cent growth for the FY 2022.

Dr Zahid Hussain said if the government opts for policy actions or takes any measures against the pandemic impact, how it would calculate the future actions and ensures management without the data on real output and other macro-economic indicators.

"How the Bangladesh Bank will shortly announce the monetary policy for next six months without the GDP data," he questioned.

"If any policy measures or actions are taken by the government without knowing the previous and current economic scenario, how it will produce better result," he further asked.

Executive Director of SANEM Dr Selim Raihan told the FE that when India was providing quarterly GDP data, Bangladesh had even failed to produce the yearly data of the previous two fiscals.

"It is not acceptable, especially during this unusual situation (the pandemic), when the real time economic data is very imperative. The data tell us the real situation of the country."

"If we do not get the data, how we will know about the economic shocks or economic recovery in different sectors and sub-sectors of the country."

"It will not bring a good result for the country, if we just put some numbers as targets in the budget without knowing the past or present economic scenario."

The non-availability of data is not only barring them from conducting research works properly, but also failing them to make a better policy guideline for the pandemic recovery, Dr Raihan concluded.

[email protected]

Share if you like