Chief Statistician did not explain how he arrived at 5.2% GDP growth

Dear Editor,

We refer to a letter to the editor in the last Sunday Stabroek News from the nation’s Chief Statistician Mr. Lennox Benjamin `Challenge of country’s growth estimate was undertaken without single reference to the economy’s sectoral sources of expansion’ in response to our letter captioned `There is no evidence of five per cent GDP growth.’

While we welcome the intervention from Mr. Benjamin, we clearly were amazed that he failed to explain to the people of Guyana how he and the Minister of Finance have arrived at the 5.2 percent GDP growth rate. Rather, Mr. Benjamin has not only chosen to hide behind the complexity of the methodology but has accused us of denigrating his young staff; which is clearly a figment of his imagination. To set the record straight, our letter has nothing to do with his young staff but has everything to do with this GDP growth rate.

Mr. Benjamin’s accusations are not only false but a convenient cop-out as he attempted quite skillfully to deflect from addressing the core issue and indulge in semantics that only he understands. We are asking Mr. Benjamin to do the honourable thing and explain to his paymasters; the Guyanese people how he arrived at the GDP growth rate of 5.2 percent. In a normal democracy, the final GDP growth rate is owned by the Head of the Bureau of Statistics and is presented to the Minister of Finance for planning purposes. Therefore the buck stops at his desk, not the young statisticians and we are not convinced that he has explained the issue to the people of Guyana in his confusing and long-winded response with very little substance and much propaganda.

The GDP growth rate is of critical importance to all stakeholders since they will have to use it in their debates and research, yet Mr. Benjamin chose to hide behind the complexity of methodologies as his only armour of defence without giving even a half-baked explanation as to how he arrived at this questionable statistics. All Mr. Benjamin has to do is to explain himself! How difficult is that? Or is he above accountability? Why is he trying to change the topic of the conversation? Or is he embarrassed because we have exposed the fudged GDP growth rate figure?

The two principle methods for computing GDP are the Expenditure Approach or the Income Approach and we are satisfied that Mr. Benjamin has been able to clear this up by stating that the National Computation is “based on the institutional/sectoral production performances.” But Mr. Benjamin has failed to state what his growth estimate for consumption was in 2013? What was the growth in investment in 2013?

What was the growth in government purchases in 2013? What was the growth in net exports in 2013? From all the data we have perused for 2013, it is clear that 5.2 percent is outside of the GDP growth range and that is why we question the numbers coming out of the Office of the Chief Statistician and until he comes clean, we shall continue to question them. Please do not play with our intelligence Mr. Benjamin by hiding behind your methodologies as your only armour of defence. A responsible Chief Statistician will not throw figures out just to show that Guyana is performing well economically.

We urge Mr. Benjamin to please provide to the nation the evidence of his source data to support this 5.2 percent growth in GDP. Until then our position on the GDP remains intact – the arithmetic is incorrect or the computation was fudged or both.

Mr. Alex Michalos, a former chancellor at the University of Northern British Columbia was quite correct when he said “the main barrier to getting progress has been that statistical agencies around the world are run by economists and statisticians and they are not people who are comfortable with human beings” (Source NY Times).

Well, we are very comfortable with human beings especially that 40 percent that exist at the bottom rung of the economic ladder in Guyana and it is our vested interest to look after their interest against those in authority who continue to use fudged statistics to pretend that all is well for the nation’s economy when the empirical evidence in the kitchens of most Guyanese tell a different story.

We will not be deterred in our work of exposing the shenanigans that pass for reality under the PPP regime. We call on Mr. Benjamin to come clean.

Yours faithfully,

Sase Singh,

Vincent Nauth,

Asquith Rose,

Dr. Devita Khan

Aubrey Reteymer

Chandra Deollal, Esq.

Derrick Arjune

Asha Balbachan

Dr. Reginald Watkins

Rohit Misir

Dr. Terrence Simon

Donna Mathoo

Noel Moses

Vicki Rampersaud

Guilianna Jacobs

Harish Singh

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