S.S. Colombage and Dr. Anila Dias Bandaranaike, who both served as Director of the Central Bank’s Statistics Department before retiring at a higher level, shared this view during a recent, vibrant discussion on the ‘quality of data’ produced by Sri Lankan agencies like the DCS and the Central Bank (CB).
It was organised by the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) as its 50th Open Forum titled “Ensuring quality of survey data” and held at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies in Colombo last week.
Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, also a former Central Banker and Finance Ministry official, chaired the forum which unfortunately drew a small audience or about 30-35 people conspicuous in a large hall. Discussants and the audience were involved in a vibrant discussion on a crucial topic that would have interested many corporate CEOs, public sector officials and academics. Heavy rain during the day also resulted in many absentees.
“In the context of recent debates relating to national statistics, questions have been raised about the quality of data. These questions and resulting reactions from the general public have served to undermine the reliability of survey data, including survey based poverty data, such as those generated through the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), which is the basis for a substantial body of research in Sri Lanka. When the credibility of national data is called into question there is a knock-on effect on other research, which can lead to a general sense of distrust pertaining to research evidence. This unfortunately, can undermine the work of the entire research community in the country,” CEPA in a pre-session, briefing note to the media.