Monday, August 27, 2012

NEPAL: Making sense of government data and where to find them

Here are few points that will help simplify your life if you are playing with and trying to make sense of the data provided by various government agencies in Nepal. Most of the data can be found in Economic Survey (ES) and Quarterly Economic Bulletin (QEB). These are helpful if you are trying to look at figures based on fiscal year. Alternatively, you can also use databases of ADB, WB and IMF.
GDP growth rate: It is better to compute real GDP growth rate yourself because if you use the government provided one, then you will notice that for 2000/01 the data is missing. It is because real GDP is computed with 2000/01 as base year. Compute real GDP growth rate using real GDP at factor cost/basic prices (at 2000/01 prices) for sectoral contribution. Compute GDP in producers prices (at 2000/01 prices) for growth rate usually used for normal purposes (the base year before 2000/01 differs).
GDP per capita: In some economic surveys you might find that GDP per capita growth for some years is higher than real GDP per capita (for instance, according to Economic Survey 2011/12 p.xxii, in 2006/07 real GDP growth was 2.8 percent but real per capita GDP growth was 6.3 percent!). It should not happen. To stay in safe side, compute your own figures. Use real GDP at factor cost (2000/01 prices) for the years you are looking at and divide it by total population in that year. The CBS provides an estimation of population in each fiscal year.
Trade: Use export and import figures from QEB. The ES keeps on messing up with data for 1985/86. You can get disaggregated export and import data based on SITC category. Better compute trade deficit on your own. Export and import data are available for Nepal’s trade with India and outside of India because almost 60 of Nepal’s trade happens with India. For disaggregated export and import figures, use TEPC’s database. If you want to access trade data disaggregated at various levels, then either use UN COMTRADE or ITC’s database (you will have to use mirror data for most of the years as reported figures are for 2003, 2009 and onwards only).
Exchange rate: Nepal has pegged its currency with Indian rupee. So, it hardly changes unless the government alters the peg, which hasn’t happened since 1993. For others, use annual average of buying and selling rates available in QEB. On February 12, 1993, the Nepalese rupee was made fully convertible on current account. Between June 1, 1983 and February 12, 1993, Nepali rupee was pegged with a basket of currencies. Prior to 1983, Nepali rupee was pegged and revalued or devalued depending on the situation.
Inflation: Use QEB. Compute inflation yourself from CPI data whose base year is 2005/06. Rural and urban inflation data are also available.
Gross domestic savings and gross national savings: Use ES. GDS is calculated as the difference between GDP and total consumption expenditure in the national accounts statistics., i.e. GDP at producer's prices (current) minus consumption. GNS is calculated as gross national income less total consumption, plus net transfers. Saving-investment gap = GNS-GCF.
Expenditure: Use ES. After 1998/99, total expenditure is divided into recurrent, capital and principal re-payment. Before that it was only regular and development expenditures. If you are looking for expenditure based on just regular and development headings, then regular expenditure = recurrent and capital=development.
Receipts: Use ES. It includes tax revenue, non tax revenue and foreign grants. Customs revenue contains imports, exports, Indian excise refund and others. VAT includes sales tax, entertainment tax, hotel tax, air flight tax and contract tax. Compute tax revenue as a share of GDP on your own (do not use total receipts as foreign grants and non tax revenue might distort the overall message!).
Foreign aid: Use ES. It has aid data disaggregated by type, sectoral flows and source. For country-wise aid commitment, see source books/white books. For a review of aid flows see Foreign Aid Co-ordination Division’s publications (particularly development cooperation reports). The OECD’s aid database also gives good data on ODA and Aid for Trade flows.
Migration: Use figures from the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), which gives you data since 1994/95. Gender disaggregated data is available starting 2006/07. The DoFE data covers only those who are given employment permits to work in foreign countries. It doesn’t include those going to India for work or going to other countries without seeking employment permits. A rough approximation of those going to India and other countries is available from ‘absentee population’ data in decennial censuses (from 1941 to 2011).
Remittances: Use remittances figures extracted from balance of payments table in QEB. This gives remittances recorded in foreign exchange only. Remittance income might include remittances in all currencies (i.e. Indian currency and others). Since Nepal has a pegged exchange rate with India and the Indian rupee is also used in the market for transaction purpose, recorded remittances in foreign exchange might understate the actual inflows. The household living standard surveys (NLSS I, II, and III) gives an approximation of remittances coming from different sources, including India. The WB’s remittances figures are also widely used.
Forex earning: Use QEB. Foreign exchange earnings come from remittances, tourism, investment income, exports, diplomatic source, foreign aid and miscellaneous.
FDI: Use FDI data from BoP table from QEB. For FDI commitment from different countries disaggregated by sector and employment, use Department of Industry’s industrial statistics year book.
Poverty and inequality: Either use NLSS (for national poverty line) or World Bank figures (for US$1.25 a day poverty line). Some use Multidimensional Poverty Index primarily used by UNDP in its annual HDR.
Social progress: For a comprehensive look at progress made since 1990, see MDG assessment reports. For other indicators, see NLSS I, II and III.
[Lastly, GDP at basic prices or factor cost = GDP at producers' prices or market prices - taxes + subsidies. GDP at factor cost is used for computing sectoral contribution to GDP; GDP at producer's prices/market prices (current) is used for calculating share of other variables.]