16 October, 2018

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Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

The Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe’s revelations about Sri Lanka’s national debt (The Island, 7 Feb. 2017) cast doubt on all published statistical data from government sources on the economic status of the country. Favourable statistics on employment growth, inflation control and economic growth are three most popular figures on which the rulers rely to trumpet their regimes economic success. If those figures look extremely unfavourable, then political pressure may compel the experts who produce the data to do something to soften the severity of the gloom. If statistical fine-tuning or manipulation is not possible then politicians look for scapegoats to shift the blame. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan exposed in 2014 (Colombo Telegraph, 4 Aug. 2014) how the Department of Census and Statistics and the Central Bank incorrectly deflated the actual inflation rate to produce incorrect economic growth rates. 

The final data published by the government and its agencies are the ones transferred to international economic managers such as the IMF and the World Bank. Even though these institutions has the resources to cross check this data they rarely do so especially when the country concerned is a student of their school of economic ideology. Finally, the false data feeds into the research output of comprador intellectuals and economists who for reasons of political correctness and personal gain spin those statistics with complex econometrics to provide results satisfactory to the rulers. Reality hidden from the public; and lies, damned lies and statistics lead the commoner to a fool’s paradise. This is the economic world in which not only the Sri Lankans but also many other citizens live all over the world. In the Trump era of “alternate facts”, the Central Bank is also engaged in systemic skulduggery. Unfortunately, those who question this malicious exercise become heretics to be condemned.

The gravity of the debt situation in Sri Lanka is more serious than what the figures show. In reality, those who were and are responsible to this gross mismanagement have mortgaged the welfare of several generations of future Sri Lankans to the benefit of a living few. Rising cost of living, depreciating local currency in real terms, mounting unemployment, corruption, cronyism, absence of rule of law and recolonization via foreign investment are the reigning dimensions of the Sri Lankan economy and society.

Given this depressing scenario, some form of diversion is required for the regime to stem the growing anger of the masses. Democracy has provided one such diversion in the form of elections in which tamasha the country is currently involved. Thousands of contestants from dozens of parties are vying for positions in the regional councils, and ultimately when the time comes in the national legislature. In spite of accusations and counter accusations of each other’s personalities and shortcomings, no one so far has come out with a workable solution to the economic ills facing the country.    

Sri Lanka, in spite of some glittering economic showcases, is in systemic malaise. The open economy with its neoliberal ideology needs to be constrained with appropriate controls. Some economists have described the Chinese economy as a birdcage economy. The bird is the market and the cage is the government national economic plan. Unrestricted market and uncontrolled investment do not produce results in the national interest. This is a lesson that one can learn from the Chinese economic success. A government committed to change the current unjust economic system is the need of the day.                         

*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    The AG Gamini Wijesinghe reveleations during election time is not at all welcome.
    He should have said whatever he wanted after 10th of Feb.

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    What may I know is the significance of the image next to the caption on the home page?

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    Very precisely and concisely said/ Bensen

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    Any forensic analysis of the current economic plight of the country is senseless and without any prudence of any sorts.

    Any pundits offering glittering explanations “post-factum” after the revelation by the Auditor General, thus is a form of plagiarism of sorts, since it is a shameless copy /replication of the original source.

    Since the cat is out of the bag now, all that these so called intellects should focus from now-on-end is to bring in creative and innovative ideas of how to rectify this situation at the earliest.

    As the the Auditor general’s statement, his prediction is a time horizon of a minimum 10 years IF we start working on a solution immediately. Thus this prediction of 10 years to resolve this issue is a very OPTIMISTIC estimate.

    And since Ameer has headlined his article as , “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”, then we need three statistical estimates in order to determine the time to solve this problem, tht being:

    1. Optimistic time (t0) := 10 Years
    2. Most likely time ™ := TBD
    3. Pessimistic time (tp) := TBD

    The weighted average time estimate being te= (t0+ 4 x tm+ tp) / 6

    My biggest concern is that the tp may get elongated ( dragged) for ever given the lackluster approach to reach a solution of any sorts by the main stakeholders, being the parliamentary members, the Cabinet, and even the Prime Minister, and the President of our Country, thus skewing the te.

    This is me speaking statistically and metaphorically.

    in conclusion the case of the SLR 3.1 Trillion bet issue as announced by the Auditor General, may never get any justifiable resolution, and this would remain a ghost figure for years to come.

    There is a “damned” statistical probability that this ghost that is the exact amount of our debt as a a nation would haunt many future generations to come.

    How can you, me and other brethren of our generation sleep and be at peace fully knowing that we have “not cared”, ant “let things be”, thus leading our country to the irreversible plight that it is got into.

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    This is what I posted in the piece by Professor Milton Rajaratne, “Yahapālana Government As A Hyper-Debt Regime”

    “Professor Milton Rajaratne,

    How confident are you that these figures are accurate? ………..There was a period where the analysts in the CB were coerced/forced to cook the books/figures.

    Have you taken into account all the funds borrowed by the previous government form the private sector, especially from the large government owned/run state banks (BoC, NSB, People’s B etc) ……..which were largely hidden?

    Pardon me for being so cynical; it’s hard to trust anyone these days …………Lankans have a way of doing that to you ……….. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has a long way to go to catch up to the Lankans of both sides/parties ………perhaps, we should utilize our true expertise/forte and establish a graduate program in the field of propaganda.”


    This revelation by the Auditor General is of vital importance to the country and I have requested the CT editorial staff/moderators to give it more prominence in print-space than that soldier’s antics in London.

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    In our Srilanka you can manipulate
    1. Economic statistics
    2. Election results
    3. Population statistics
    4. Justice
    5.. Truth

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    It looks Sri lanka doe snot have one specific way of doing things. that is they should foolow Best practicees always. So, every one follows the same calculating, accounting methods. Secondly, Ranil Wickramsinghe seems to be very secretive and destructive. You should have read, that IMF looks very susoicious. IMF is associated with MCC and some other affailited organizatiosn from different areas of that country. I read tht economic forecasts by IMF nd world bank on Sri lanka are comepltely on political reasons. For example, One Debt rating Agency of Asian countries gave a negative rating to Sri lanka among asian countries. But, IMF said Sri lanka is doing fine and another debta rating Agency (Fitsch) recently has given B+ rating. IF you check web pages (globalResearch.ca) West, particularly one country has done that all over the wolrd. UKraine is one such country which they bankruped. If you read the recent history, IMF was a partner in bankrupting that country. Now they are introducing American weapons manufacturing to that country probably to counteract weaponns sales by Russia. Eventhough it is not weapons, Sri lanka also has similar demands. Some how Ranil is complete idiot and he does not want to understand that he is wrecking the couuntry. I heard Mangala saying, I understand it, and I am not going that far as they say. I heard Pitipana report also has certain things important and the govt did not release it completely. It had talked about CBK too. Probably CBK was supporting them earlier. but she has given it up now. Most of the very prominent politicians may be in a certain destructive game either knowingly or not knowingly. At least Ranil is willing do that for some reason. Anyway, Sri lanka is economically ruined. Only thse women and men working in the middle east and Korea keep the country floats.

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