The lack of trust in and of government on official statistics had evolved into a serious data concern not only in the Philippines, but also in the world, according to local and international experts.
At the opening ceremony of the 28th National Statistics Month, Paris21’s Johannes Jütting said many people, including top government officials, have become vocal about their distrust of official statistics.
“I think we are facing a very, very serious moment for official statistics in the world. It’s not a particularly Filipino issue; this is facing rich countries, poor countries, middle-income countries and the like,” Jütting said.
He also said this distrust partly stems from the perceptions and feelings of people. For example, Jütting said the Philippines is considered one of the fastest-growing economies based on official data. But the feeling or perception of many Filipinos is that they remain poor.
Jütting added that, since official data is computed in averages, many are not inclined to believe the information they are presented with. He said that, in truth, the average Filipino does not exist.
“We have to distinguish between facts and feelings. People have feelings, they believe in what they see,” Jütting said. “[We have to] go beyond the averages [or] averaging numbers. The average Filipino is not existing.”
For his part, National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Ernesto M. Pernia said that, despite these perceptions, the government holds in high esteem the need to be credible.
Pernia said credibility is important for the national and local governments, as well as government line agencies that will help convince Filipinos that official data is accurate.
“Official statistics of the government are very credible and accurate. They’re based on scientific methods and they’re collected religiously by statisticians working in the field,” Pernia said.
National statistician Lisa Grace Bersales said the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) uses approved methodologies and adheres to standards that make their products credible.
Bersales said if there are questions regarding their data, the public can refer to the technical notes of their statistics. These will provide the ways by which official data is derived and processed.
She added that the PSA encourages vetting of information. Bersales said the public is free to engage with the PSA and discuss the results of whatever data the agency generates.
In a news statement, the Neda said the theme of this year’s National Statistics Month reflects the role of reliable statistics and factual information in determining appropriate strategies for tracking the Philippines’ progress toward its long-term vision of a stable, comfortable and secure life (matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay) for all Filipinos.
In line with the goal of laying down the foundation for a globally competitive knowledge economy and a high-trust society, speakers and attendees exchanged insights on the importance of statistics in data journalism, use of statistics in academe and processing of information in the age of social media.
“Reliable statistics are among our tools to help people to enable citizens to be more discerning, for them to become smart and innovative. The government and the private sector should also be able to count on properly vetted statistics to make sound decisions and choices toward the country’s progress,” Pernia said.
Pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 647, “Declaring the Month of October of Every Year as the National Statistics Month”, the proclation aims to promote nationwide awareness and appreciation of the value of statistics among different sectors of society.
In a memorandum circular issued on September 24, the PSA called on all agencies of the government, academic institutions and the private sector across the country to actively participate in and support the celebration of the National Statistics Month.