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    State agencies can’t count

    March 17, 2017

    Iran has long been bedeviled by state agencies that issue statistics that are often conflicting.  The research arm of the Majlis has now called on the two main organizations publishing economic data to work more closely so as not to erode public trust.

    The two agencies are the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI), who numbers of the rate of inflation and the growth in the gross domestic product are often—in fact, routinely—different.  As the Majlis Research Center said, they “have been at odds with each other on many occasions.”

    The Research Center gave some specifics on the manner in which statistics have been handled.  “In 2012-13 and 2013-14 [under President Ahmadi-nejad], when economic growth was negative, neither CBI nor SCI released any GDP data,” it said, noting that it was only with the start of the tenure of President Rohani in mid-2013 that growth figures for these two years were disclosed.

    The Research Center took issue with the “intermittent” way of publishing data by these two bodies, referring to 2014-15 when CBI published economic growth statistics while SCI remained silent and in 2015-16 when the situation was reversed with CBI remaining inert while SCI came up with figures.

    As for the current Persian year, the Research Center said CBI published GDP data for the first half of the year ending September 21, but no entity provided details other than announcing that a 7.4 percent GDP growth had been achieved. This is “totally against professional principles and accepted international statistical norms,” especially since CBI had not published the growth rate for the previous fiscal year.

    Furthermore, the Central Bank proceeded to announce a figure for this year only after the president gave a figure in one of his speeches, which could “set a bad precedent for statistical releases in future,” as it creates the possibility of statistical bodies deferring their tasks to elected officials, which can erode public trust.

    The issue is nothing new.  Well over a decade ago, President Khatami called in officials of the Labor Ministry and SCI after they issued conflicting figures on the unemployment rate and demanded they work together to produce one number.

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