Trade deficit figures released by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) compared to the data available on the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) website are lower by $394 million. This discrepancy may have facilitated the economic team for taking credit for narrowing the trade deficit.
An analysis of data shows that due to discrepancy in figures, the PBS reported a trade deficit of $1.170 billion in September 2013, whereas the SBP showed a higher deficit of $1.564 billion in the summary of balance of payments as per Balance of payment manual 6. This correspondent talked to several former finance officials, who on condition of anonymity, recalled allegations of figure fudging by Finance Minister, Shaukat Aziz, against Pakistan Muslim League (N) team led by Ishaq Dar – a charge that Dar also made against Shaukat Aziz in 2008 when the former held the Finance portfolio briefly.
An official on condition of anonymity said that discrepancy in trade figures was also an indication that exporters might be withholding some export proceeds on fears of further depreciation of the local currency. This, he argued, would impact negatively on foreign exchange reserves and consequently add more pressure to the exchange rate. The PBS data is based on actual export transactions from ports while the SBP figures are based on actual cash transactions. When asked if this might be routine under-invoicing, the official agreed it was possible but added that this practice also reflected uncertainty about economic policies.
All officials, currently in office and those who have retired, insisted that their statements not be attributed to them did not rule out manipulation of figures with the objective of easing criticism on the one hand and taking credit for reducing the trade deficit on the other hand.
According to the SBP, the Statistics and Data Warehouse Department of the SBP has initiated transition towards disseminating the balance of payments (BoP) of Pakistan on the basis of methodology set out in the 6th edition of the IMF’s Balance of Payment and International Investment position Manual (BPM6) beginning July 2013 whereas the PBS reported trade data on the basis of figures provided by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
Conceptually BPM6 maintains the overall framework of the methodology of the previous (fifth) edition of the Manual (BPM5). However, the BPM6 deepens the harmonisation of the IMF’s external sector statistics recommendation with the update of the System of National Accounts and the international standards in the area of other macroeconomics statistics.
According to the SBP, the country carried out $2.066 billion exports in the month under review while the PBS reported $2.622 billion exports.
An analysis of data also reveals a discrepancy in import data as the PBS reported $3.791 billion imports for the month under review while the SBP came up with $3.641 million imports. Business Recorder made repeated attempts to solicit the viewpoints of Finance Ministry and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics but was unable to make contact till the filing of this report.
Source: Recorder Report