Nepal | October 15, 2019

Discrepancy calls trade data credibility into question

Arpana Ale Magar

Kathmandu, July 17

Nepal Rastra Bank, the Department of Customs and Trade and Export Promotion Centre are the major sources of the country’s trade data. But comparing the trade statistics of the three agencies brings to fore some remarkable discrepancies.

For instance, as per the DoC, goods worth Rs 1,061.61 billion were imported in the first nine months of the last fiscal, which was 21.73 per cent more compared to the same period of the previous fiscal. According to NRB, goods worth Rs 1,061.63 billion were imported in the same period, which was 21.3 per cent more than the previous fiscal. The TEPC data, on the other hand, show that goods worth Rs 1,061.65 billion were imported in the same period and claimed it was 20.4 per cent more compared to the last fiscal.

While all the three agencies said the country exported goods worth Rs 69.82 billion in the first nine months of the last fiscal, the data of the same period of previous fiscal differs. While DoC and NRB claim the country had exported 16.9 per cent more goods than the previous fiscal, TEPC said the export had increased by 17.5 per cent.

Since DoC is the main source of raw trade data, Shishir Ghimire, DoC information officer, said other agencies could have made mistakes while extracting data. “We follow international standards of accounting. Our data is authentic,” he claimed.

Such discrepancies, according to experts, call the credibility of official data into question. “Based on the international practice, it is the government’s responsibility to set a standard for data collection, which we don’t have at the moment,” said Economist Bishwa Poudel, explaining the cause for inconsistency in government data.

It is not that government officials are unaware of the situation. In fact, it has been almost six years since the government started formulating the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics. “The formulation of the draft strategy was delayed due to technical and internal obstacles,” said Suman Raj Aryal, director general of the Central Bureau of Statistics.

According to him, NSDS draft has already been submitted to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. “We submitted the draft around five months ago and the law ministry is examining it,” he said.

“After the ministry’s nod, it will be sent for Cabinet’s endorsement.”

Law Ministry Spokesperson Dhanraj Gyawali said the process of finalising the draft was almost complete. “We just need to hold a final meeting with the CBS, which will probably happen within a week,” he said. “After that, it will be sent to the Prime Minister’s Office to be presented at the Cabinet.” According to Aryal, the new act will set a single standard for data collection and regulate the research methodology of all authorities concerned.

 


A version of this article appears in print on July 18, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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