Updated Household Income and Expenditure Survey is only way to gauge ‘poverty reduction’ and ‘inclusive growth’

Dear Editor,

Please allow me to make some comments on your Business Page of January 5.

Mr Lucas says that Guyanese, especially the opposition, ought to be mindful of the fact that the Government of Guyana is unlikely to change economic course on account of its “success” in registering growth. He asks whether Guyanese might by default, by ignorance of the changes and requirements over the last 25 years, be acting contrary to their own interests. He cites, as a reason for Guyanese to go with the programme so to speak, the IMF Executive Board:  “Directors encouraged the authorities to persevere with their commitment to sound policies and reforms to strengthen policy buffers, promote more inclusive growth, and further reduce poverty.”

Well, I always assumed that such articles are for the entire reading public not all of whom are economists. So how are we to know whether to follow a programme or a set of programmes at a given time, or a series of programmes over 25 years? Well, if a reader considers himself a beneficiary of the programme or programmes that is a good indicator for him. If he is not a beneficiary then a reasonable person might ask, ‘Do I see my neighbour benefiting?’ If not, who is? Here is where we come to a serious problem with the analysis.

Is BP aware that there is an instrument by which a reasonable person who is not an economist can know how these programmes on ‘poverty reduction’ and ‘inclusive growth’ are doing? Does he know that this instrument was published in Guyana and has stopped being published? I am talking about the HIES (The Household Income and Expenditure Survey). The last one I saw was about 1993. Why was it stopped? This survey was conducted throughout Guyana and showed which households in which geographical areas were receiving what income and from which sources. I want to suggest that without such an instrument which is understandable to an ordinary person it is unreasonable to ask anyone to follow any programme. When I get into an aeroplane I don’t have a clue how to operate the controls or the geography as viewed from the air. In fact I can’t sometimes even see anything. However, when I come out of the airport I will expect to see if I have landed where I planned to go. The HIES is the only instrument I know that tells me not only how I am supposed to be doing as part of a group, but how others are doing independent of any political propaganda. So when is BP going to advocate the return of that instrument?

On checking to ensure that I have not missed a recent publication of the survey I found this curious entry on the UNDP website: “The Household Income and Expenditure Survey and Guyana Living Conditions Survey, each show that the proportion of households living in moderate poverty (on US$2 daily) has declined from 43% to 36.3% in seven years.” This would appear to suggest that there is an up-to-date survey. Is it a state secret? And why? If there is indeed an up-to-date survey apparently the writer of the Guyana Times article which I also found on the net titled ‘A lack of planning’ dated May 23, 2013 does not know (assuming that the UNDP site is not referring to a report published between then and now). He or she quotes from a book by John Gafar referring to the 1993 survey without reference to more up-to-date figures.

About that growth, how does BP know how much of that growth has resulted from statistical tweaking? Argentina has been threatened with suspension by the IMF for that. Argentine President Kirchner fired statisticians in 2007 for not tweaking. His wife who is the current  president fired a woman who made public her observations on the difference between the stats she was seeing in her department and the stats published by the government. Do you think that if any tweaking should happen in the Guyana Bureau of Statistics we would have someone speak about it? I doubt it. Here is what the law says: “Bureau of Statistics Confidentiality of the reported data from individual units is guaranteed under the Statistics Act, Paragraph 11. Furthermore, a breach of confidentiality by an employee is regarded as a major offence subject to conviction and penalty under Paragraph 12. Finally, Section 16 (1) of the Statistics Act requires all employees to take an Oath of Affirmation to safeguard all information to which they become privy in the course of their duties (from IMF website on Guyana’s statistical system).

Lastly, everywhere where there is accountable economic management, one sees the role played by the rate of unemployment. Does BP know what the rate of unemployment is in Guyana? Could you imagine a country where even the Ministry of Labour  is reported as not knowing the level of unemployment? BP says that as part of the economic programmes there was a “drastic reduction in the workforce of the public sector and an increased use of contract workers.” Wait a minute. Who is checking on what happened to these workers over the years? Are the numbers reducing or swelling? Are the ones who can’t get a job or are among the working poor to get behind the programme too?

One suspects that BP has provided the answer, wittingly or unwittingly, to the question he poses in the “40% of the economy distorted by money laundering” quote. Seems like a lot of Guyanese have indeed responded to these programmes, though not all of them in legal ways.


Yours faithfully,
F Collins

Latest in Letters

default placeholder

The city council needs to install parking meters to raise money

Dear Editor, We continue to be amazed by the many different stories which are being peddled in certain sections of the media and other places about the installation and operation of parking meters in the city.

default placeholder

It is time the Mayor, Town Clerk, Finance Committee Chairman stop the authoritarianism

Dear Editor, The Youth For Local Government (YFLG) is appalled by the actions and statements coming from the Georgetown municipality, mainly the utterances of the Mayor, Councillor Oscar Clarke and the Town Clerk on the parking meter fiasco.

default placeholder

Statistics do not support the view that abolition of the death penalty does not affect the murder rate

Dear Editor, In societies all over the world when the murder rate is deemed uncomfortably high citizens engage in fierce discourse on the merits and demerits of the death penalty; Guyana has been no different.

default placeholder

Jagan was prepared to offer vice-presidencies to Thomas and Tennassee

Dear Editor,   I noticed that there is debate about the offer of a ministerial position to distinguished Professor Dr Clive Thomas by Dr Jagan.

default placeholder

Is the talk of social cohesion just rhetoric?

Dear Editor, I have a serious question for Guyanese, especially the current Government of Guyana (the APNU+AFC). What exactly is social cohesion and what measurable criteria need to be met for this to be achieved?

default placeholder

The EU will not be the same without Britain

Dear Editor, The British people have voted to exit the European Union after 43 years of membership. This is indeed a historic development which can have far reaching consequences not only for the people of Britain, but for the whole of Europe.

default placeholder

APNU+AFC councillors were not invited to Region Five council meeting

Dear Editor,   As I was watching the LRTVS newscast the night before last, I was shocked to see the Regional Chairman and his PPP councillors at a meeting in the RDC boardroom. 

default placeholder

The parking meter contract should be renegotiated or scrapped

Dear Editor, The parking meter controversy raises many troubling questions for democracy, transparency and accountability. As a newly elected Councillor, I understand that there is a need to generate more revenue in order to manage the City of Georgetown effectively and implement much needed projects to upgrade existing facilities and embark on new developmental projects.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: