29 October, 2020

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The ‘Dark’ Of Sunshine Stories

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

For years, UNP Parliamentarian Dr Harsha De Silva has regularly claimed that statistics pertaining to the country’s economic and social wellbeing have been doctored.  These claims have usually been accompanied by warnings of imminent economic collapse.  The economy has not collapsed as predicted and explanations have been thin on logic. This does not mean, however, that the allegations of statistics-doctoring are figments of De Silva’s imagination.

The recent claim by a Director attached to the Accounts Division of the Department of Census and Statistics to the effect that he was asked by the Deputy Director General to change the economic growth rate calculated by the Division (from 5.4% to 6.0%) has shocked one and all.  He alleges that this was a directive of the Director General.

The Director General has countered that the said Director had not followed standard procedure.  The Director, since transferred out of the Department, now faces a disciplinary inquiry.  The Department, to be fair, has on occasion come up with less than cheerful outlooks based on data gathered.  On the other hand, in this instance, a manifest reluctance to explain discrepancy does raise questions about integrity.  The said Director, it must be remembered, is a veteran statistician with 30 years of experience in the Department, and if he is inept, as claimed, that itself is a slur on the institution.

If indeed the Director General has insisted on the doctoring of conclusions it is a serious matter.  Preferred outcomes can be generated by clever number-cooking, but that amounts to a breach of public trust.  It moreover implicates top officials in both the Treasury and the Central Bank, for it is hard to believe that the head of this department would dare mislead say the Governor of the Central Bank and the Treasury Secretary.

The matter could easily be cleared if methodologies are revealed and the public be asked to deliberate on which was more robust and consequently which conclusions to believe.  The Director’s statement to the investigating officer can easily be perused by experts who can then rule on his judgment.  The same could be done for the ‘official version’, if the Department cooperates.  As things stand, the onus is on the Department to reveal all, if it is to get rid of the shadow that has fallen on it.

Upping the number from 5.4 to 6.0, when considering what they numbers represent, translates into a lot of money.  In the current global economic climate, however, a 5.4% growth rate is nothing to be ashamed of, even if it is falls short of government prediction.  If it was say 3.2% it would be alarming and compromise the credibility of those who make such predictions.   If anyone gets alarmed or doesn’t have the intellectual ability to explain difference between prediction and outcome, whether it be big or small, it points to a multiple ailments including arrogance, irresponsibility, lack of professionalism and absence of integrity.

Sunshine stories are not the preserve of spineless public servants (and we are not passing judgment on the Department of Census and Statistics, yet).  They are what lackeys typically regale their masters with.  Some say that this is the inevitable curse of those who lead.  The problem with sunshine stories is that while they are nice to read, their veracity gets tested in the matter of living, the humble but necessary acts of buying stationary for children, purchasing medicine and securing money to bury or cremate the dead.  Budgets have to be balanced, in the final instance, at home.  That’s the bottom line of all economic theory.  The term ‘economy,’ after all is derived from the Greek word for household, oikos.

A responsible and indeed a shrewd government will understand that all things considered truth sells better and more importantly is easier to defend than a lie.  And it’s not only about growth rates.  An analogy can be obtained from the operations conducted to rid the country of the terrorist menace.  For years successive governments lied.  In the last three years of the conflict, however, part of the reason why the Government secured the support of the general public was because the fact that ‘must do things’ come with ‘probably costs’ was expressly stated.

We don’t need fairy tales. We don’t need the truth to be varnished.  The truth, rather, will empower both the ruled and the ruler in the long run.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Good message. It will be interesting to see how much of abuse and allegations (mostly irrelevant to the subject) it will generate

  • 0
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    The greeks also got into a mess by lying about their actual situation and doctoring the figures when the entered the Eurozone.Sadly it is their younger generations who had nothing to do with that dishonesty that are suffering with a bleak future while the old pappas who doctored the figures have vanished from the limelight and are forgotten.

  • 2
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    ” A responsible and indeed a shrewd government will understand that all things considered truth sells better and more importantly is easier to defend than a lie.”

    So why then did GOSL claim zero civilian casualties in the 2009 military operations against Tamils?

    • 0
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      “A responsible government”!!! Where did you hear such fairy tales?

  • 1
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    Malinda clearly doesn’t understand the what Harsha Silva and other economists have been saying about the long-term effects of the Rajapaksas economic policies.

    As for Sri Lankans not need fairy tales…does he mean the same lot who believe in the zero causality, humanitarian war? And the ones who believed that the same state that murdered villagers in Weliweriya (let alone historical events like the killing of JVP youth) could not possibly kill innocent civilians or surrendering terrorists.

  • 1
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    This UPFA government lost it credibility.
    It has integrity in her acts.

    If real truths of UPFA government comes out to public it would even worse.

    • 1
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      Imagine the truth of how UPFA government covered up Duminda on his killing of Bharatha.

      How government falsely made news that Duminda was gravely injured the xrays showing his skulls, brains shattered.

      My gosh !!! how much lies UPFA gov. fed to public then years later he appears miraculously cured of shattered brain and skull.

      Milinda what truth you want government to tell public? -:)

  • 2
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    Malinda – a few excerpts from your post warrant responses:

    “… a manifest reluctance to explain discrepancy does raise questions about integrity” – You will probably agree (deep down in your alternate reality space) that “integrity” in this administration, if not an endangered species, is already extinct.

    “it is hard to believe that the head of this department would dare mislead say the Governor of the Central Bank and the Treasury Secretary” – Really???!!! How about if the Governor is behind the “misleading”? That won’t be stretching the imagination, given his abysmal history beginning with the pyramid scam he was accused of, where the investigation was terminated for no good reason.

    “If anyone gets alarmed or doesn’t have the intellectual ability to explain difference between prediction and outcome, whether it be big or small, it points to a multiple ailments including arrogance, irresponsibility, lack of professionalism and absence of integrity” – You said it – there it is larger than life!

    We don’t need fairy tales. We don’t need the truth to be varnished. The truth, rather, will empower both the ruled and the ruler in the long run” – Unfortunately “the truth” from this administration is nowhere to be seen, so stop it with your “fairy tales”, for as you say, “we don’t need them”!

  • 6
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    Malinda, what a joker you are. Here are your own words:

    “Sunshine stories are not the preserve of spineless public servant……They are what lackeys typically regale their masters with. Some say that this is the inevitable curse of those who lead. The problem with sunshine stories is that while they are nice to read, their veracity gets tested in the matter of living, the humble but necessary acts of buying stationary for children, purchasing medicine and securing money to bury or cremate the dead……”

    This is exactly what you do, you fraud. Massaging the truth is your speciality.

    Selling your soul for a potty laptop and a useless job-title is the height of your ethical principles!

    When will you shut up and stop making an bloody ass of yourself?

    You are becoming a bore..yaaaaaaawn!!!!!

  • 3
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    I took the trouble to read this piece in the hope that the b.s this pandankaraya usually spouts had taken a leap into the imaginative. No such luck, it was the usual inept attempt at spin-doctoring that I suppose he gets paid for by those owning The Nation newspaper where he is head honcho.
    What a sad situation for journalism in this country. The only thing that could be worse would be having one of the Royal Family write their own material for publication!

  • 3
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    this fellow is a scumbag

    • 0
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      He has always been like that. For him facts and figures are not signficant if he wants to paint a better picture of any far abusive acts done by rulers. Why should anyone fall to that levels ?

      For what purpose he has got his university education at Havard ?

      If it is to sideline the rulers knowing that they have been abusive by all nature – so I think MS should really be mentally retarded.

  • 2
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    Malinda

    You could have made the effort to investigate the numbers in question and arrived at a qualified answer if the DG had indeed instructed the doctoring of the numbers. This is irresponsible journalism, quoting what amounts to nonsense. The raw numbers have to be available from the sources that compiled them. The SL media is lazy and uneducated at the same time and the poor public suffers from it. The crooks have it easy because all they have to do is deny the facts that denial is printed very dutifully without a counter from the journalist who raised the issue in the first place.

    I guess its a job !

    • 0
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      Upul
      You need to understand the “tethered goats”

  • 0
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    Now the poor DG is the highest level of culprit? What gain is there for him/her in doctoring these figures? It is those politicians who order these officials to generate numbers to cheat the public who should be held as highest level culprits. It is not honest to whitewash them by saying “ah, all politicians used to do this, so these politicians can do this”. We should arrest them at one point and teach a lesson to future politicians.

    Apart from that, I am sure the public is aware that US economy grew by 4.2%in the fourth quarter of 2013 and UK economy by just above 3%. Remember, these are massive numbers in absolute terms. Ex. If a guy with Rs. 1000 gets another Rs. 100, it is a 10% growth. But for one who already has Rs. 100,000, it is just a 1% growth. Sri Lankan economy grew by 4.3% back in 2009 when US economy shrank by -8.5%. So, a 5.6% growth when the US economy grows by 4.2% gives a dark message. so, it is wrong to give the impression that Sri Lankan economic direction is not bad compared to the Western epi-centers of economic dynamics.

    • 0
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      Sorry. For the guy with 100,000, Rs. 100 is 0.1% growth.

  • 1
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    Malinda, the CE of a State controlled Newspaper has now proclaimed himself to be an Economic Pundit. Without analyzing the economic data this economic pundit bases his arguments on the statement given by the Director General. May I invite attention of this economic pundit the link given below which rubbishes all what he wrote:-
    http://www.lankatruth.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6216:inflation-data-doctored-&catid=36:top-stories&Itemid=124

  • 0
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    Some of comments are very interest of Economy .

  • 0
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    Jim Softly, are you Malinda Seneviratne; Milinda are you Jim? I think Jim Softly is Milinda Seneviratne or a friend of Milinda’s. If you do not believe me check Milinda’s articles and comments; Jim Softly is there only once or twice but all comments are either to help or clarify Milinda. Milinda, do not stoop to a level too low because people will start urinating and defecating on you. I feel sorry for you. Shame on you.

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