Economics Local

Go figure…. two govt. agencies, two sets of economic numbers

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR — July 26, 2019: Confusingly contradictory aptly describes Malaysia’s key economic numbers after a government department recently announced its set of numbers which glaringly differ from those in the central bank’s report released in March.

Where Bank Negara (BNM) stated the gross domestic product growth for 2018 was 4.7 per cent, the Department of Statistics has put it at 5.5%!

Not surprisingly, the statement from the department’s chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr. Mohd. Uzir Mahidin on Wednesday gave also a different number to the total value of the economy. Bank Negara’s was RM1.23 trillion while the department had it at RM1.4 trillion.

Other contradictions:

The department put the growth of the services sector at 7.5% (BNM — 6.8%);

Manufacturing — 7.3% (BNM — 5%).

While Uzir attributed the growth in manufacturing as supported mainly by petroleum, chemical, rubber and plastic products, BNM mentioned electrical and electronics.

After realising the discrepancies, we emailed the bank and the department but both have yet to respond.

The contradictions mean that there is an issue of trust involved. Now, who should the people believe in — the central bank or the department? The other question is why the need for the department to release this report four months after BNM? Was it necessary, especially if it had first referred to the central bank’s announcement?

Economists and bankers who spoke under anonymity described the numbers from the department as useless, since it is known to use different formulas and standards to calculate economic activities.

“We, industry players, always refer to Bank Negara’s numbers. Any banker or economist worth his salt would pay no heed to the department’s report. Their forte is collecting data, not analysing them,” said an officer with a local bank.

Another critic of the department — an economist from a local university — said that people generally rely more on Bank Negara’s figures because the standards that the central bank uses to measure economic activities are internationally recognised.

Absolutely unnecessary this situation and one that could have been easily avoided if the department had done its research on announcements by the central bank on something so elementary and yet of great significance to the country.



About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at