Peru says got GDP math wrong for 15 years

By Jude Webber

LIMA, Peru, Oct 29 (Reuters) – Peru has admitted it has been reporting its key economic indicator, gross domestic product growth, wrongly for the past 15 years and will publish only partial data from now on until it can correct its sums.  Farid Matuk, who took over as head of the government’s  National Statistics Institute (INEI) in August, told reporters late on Monday it had been a mistake to publish GDP data on a monthly basis since 1987, when every other country in the world except Canada and Finland published quarterly, because monthly figures contained a wide margin of error. Furthermore, he said the way the monthly figures were calculated had also factored in a “false illusion” of the performance of the service sector, meaning that the official data “was not solid” and could not be trusted.

INEI will therefore strip the service and trade segments out of its GDP numbers for the next few months, leaving a snapshot of the performance of only around half of Latin America’s No. 7 economy, which is worth around $54 billion on current reckoning and leans heavily on mining and fishing. “I can’t produce erroneous information. I’d rather partial data that is clear than full data that is murky,” Matuk said. While it rebases its index and sorts out its methodology, INEI will publish only what Matuk called “hard figures” on the detailed monthly output of goods in the primary and secondary sectors — agriculture, fishing, mining, manufacturing, utilities and construction — plus tax data. Data for trade and “other services,” which covers mainly transport, financial and public sector services will go.The first set of new-look figures, called “gross value added production,” is due out next week, for September. The government of unpopular President Alejandro Toledo says Peru’s economic performance is stellar in a crisis-wracked region, and is forecasting growth of at least 3.7 percent this year, compared with 0.2 percent in 2001. According to current calculations, GDP grew 3.8 percent in August and 4.1 percent in the first eight months compared with the same 2001 periods.



Once INEI has sorted out its sums, it will switch to reporting complete GDP numbers, but on a quarterly basis. Matuk said INEI would revise its 2001 GDP data in the next few weeks, according to the current 1994 base year and method of reckoning. But it will not publish full 2002 GDP data – that will be up to the economy ministry and central bank.  He hoped that by July 2003, INEI would be ready to publish the total value of Peru’s economy, in dollar terms, according to a new 2001 base, followed by quarterly GDP data. That was likely to have a delay of six months to begin with. “There was a lot of resistance within INEI (to the new method of calculation),” Matuk said. “But either we perpetuate the fiction or we sort out the information, and I think sorting out the information is the right thing to do.”

Current GDP data uses information provided voluntarily by some 30,000 companies, but Matuk said INEI also had extensive data from household and employment surveys from nearly 40,000 homes nationwide that would help complete the picture. France’s national statistics agency is providing the software for the new calculations, and is sending a team of experts to Peru next month to help INEI get to work. Matuk said Peru was also working with other countries on a World Bank project to harmonize calculation of purchasing power parity by 2005 based on a basket of 4,000 universal goods.



((Lima newsroom, tel: +511 221 2130, fax +511 221 2133, e-mail: REUTERS


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