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Monday, April 29, 2019

Report on national accounts shows bright future of country’s economic growth

Suman Raj Aryal, DG Central Berau of Stastistic

The Central Bureau of Statistics recently published the National Labour Force Survey and Regional (Provincial) National Accounts 2019. In contrast with the government’s target of achieving eight per cent economic growth in this fiscal, the recent data have revealed that growth of only 6.8 per cent can be achieved. National accounts are considered to be the indicators of the country’s economic status. Umesh Poudel and Arpana Ale Magar of The Himalayan Times caught up with Suman Raj Aryal, director general of CBS, to learn about the current economic status of the country based on the national accounts. Excerpts:

As per your experience, what is the country’s current economic status based on the national accounts report?

National accounts are indicators that reflect the economic status of the country. Currently, Nepal’s economy is in a growing phase and the journey towards growth is satisfying. The country has been achieving economic growth rate of above six per cent for the last three years. And this growth has created a kind of hope among people for economic prosperity. Moreover, national accounts count the production level of the country. Based on the recent Regional (Provincial) National Accounts 2019 it has been gradually rising. Now, the government has to be focused on giving continuity to this growth to make it sustainable.

You mentioned that data shows good growth of economy, however, the unemployment rate is still high in the country. Even the Labour Force Survey 2019 shows that. What is your take on this?

The definition of unemployment is crucial while collecting data. According to the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) held in October, 2013, two major things are needed for a person to be defined as employed. First, if a person is getting paid for what she or he is doing, then the person is considered employed. Secondly, anyone who is involved in a business that generates jobs for others is also considered as employed. Thus, those people who are working or producing goods for their own use and only for their survival or involved only in their household works should be counted as unemployed. Hence, following the concept of ICLS, we have counted people who are getting paid for their jobs and people who have their own business as employed while others have been taken as unemployed. This situation has also showed high rate of unemployment in our report.

Does this imply that the unemployment rate is actually low in the country?

No, I don’t mean to say that. Since we are following ICLS, we have to abide by its concept. What we have to look at is the type of unemployment we have in our country. Sixty per cent of the population in our country is engaged in the agricultural sector only for their survival. Meanwhile, many people are dependent on seasonal agriculture and most of them find it difficult to make ends meet. Even though they possess their own land and are involved in farming, we have to consider them as unemployed if they are not earning any profit or creating jobs for others. Hence, all those marginalised farmers have been counted as unemployed in the report. Moreover, even those who are searching for jobs were counted as unemployed. However, I am optimistic that the unemployment rate will go down in the future. The government’s target to bring down the number of people dependent on agriculture to 20 per cent in the next 25 years by utilising modern technologies and equipment will also help improve the lives of marginalised farmers. Likewise, the government’s recent policies and programmes to create jobs may also help in reducing the jobless rate next year.

The government has a target to achieve eight per cent economic growth in the current fiscal, but the national accounts report shows that only 6.8 per cent growth can be achieved. What do you have to say on this contradiction?

It is not necessary that we always achieve the target that we set. It is more important to have a target. In whatever we do, we must first set a goal and strive for it. Even if we fail to achieve it today, we may be able to so in the long run. The government’s economic growth target was a genuine goal, but somehow we will not be able to achieve it in this fiscal. There are less than three months left for the fiscal year to end, so the current target will be missed.

Many times the data maintained on the same subject by different authorities contradict. Doesn’t this raise a question over the credibility of data in the country?

To be honest, this has become a major problem in the country and it is happening as specific areas have not been segregated for different authorities. As per the international practice of maintaining data, there should not be more than one body working on a similar issue. If there are multiple bodies involved in the same subject, there is high possibility that respondents may give different feedback to different organisations for the same query. Also, the government will be investing resources for the same work in various bodies. Moreover, the research methodology also plays a significant role. So, to avoid all these discrepancies, we are currently revising the guidelines through which statistics are collected and also some laws related to the Central Bureau of Statistics. The new act will separate the working area for every individual body, so that such conflicting data on the same subject can be curtailed.

Is CBS utilising the tools offered by information and communication technology to systematise the data collection method and keep the data safe?

Today, we are in a digital age and the use of ICT in any sector is imperative. We are making use of ICT tools in every aspect of life. At CBS too we have started using ICT, otherwise we will face difficulties in keeping such a huge amount of data updated. Earlier, we did not have access to ICT, so we used to maintain data in paper files. But now with the access to ICT, our work has become easier and secure too. For instance, we have now started collecting data on tablets to avoid paper work. Besides, we are now thinking of making public all the data we have and we are working on a data warehouse. With this data warehouse, the public can easily access data they require online. To provide this service, we are close to completing the data profile.

Can you please explain what data profile is?

Data profile is a data warehouse that will give 80 per cent of the reports and data that CBS has prepared till date. By logging on to our website, the public can go through the data free of cost and the data will also be secure. From mid-July, people can get any data they want from the data profile.

Are there any new projects that the CBS is working on at present?

At present, our major focus is on census. We are preparing questionnaires and other required documents along with technical aspects of the census. Besides that, we will soon begin Nepal Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey that will present the report of the current situation of women and children in the country. It will study various aspects of child health, reproductive health, child development, education and literacy, child protection, HIV and AIDS, attitude towards domestic violence, use of ICT and life satisfaction. This survey will be conducted in cooperation with UNICEF–Nepal. Likewise, we will be conducting the Nepal Lifestyle Survey in association with the World Bank. This survey will help us study the lifestyle of Nepalis. Basically it will focus on the people living in abject poverty.

from Business – The Himalayan Times http://bit.ly/2vrTmZw

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