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Statistics crucial to economic future

Viet Nam intends to be among the leading countries in ASEAN in the field of statistics by 2025 despite currently trailing its neighbours, a conference discussing the country’s future statistics plan heard yesterday.

Viet Nam’s rapid advance was an “absolutely possible” goal set by the draft national statistical development strategy, said WB statistics consultant Richard Roberts at the meeting organised recently by the General Statistical Office (GSO) in northern Bac Ninh Province.

“It’s very clear that with the current competence and enthusiasm among the staff of the GSO and the ministries, and the obvious political support, dramatic improvement can be made here in the next 10 years,” he said.

The World Bank 2010 report indicates that Viet Nam ranks 7th out of nine countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (without Brunei), only ahead of East Timor and Myanmar.

The country’s statistical capacity is seven points below the ASEAN average and four points below the world average, the report reveals.

The report even shows Viet Nam has lost 10 points since 2004 when Viet Nam was four points higher than the regional average.

The lost points were mostly due to inconsistent statistical methodology used by the country.

“The low marks were mainly given for methodology. For instance, we use the 1994 fixed price table to compare development growth over the time while the world only uses the fixed prices for the last decade,” said GSO acting director Do Thuc.

The measure adopted by the World Bank also covers the timeliness and the accuracy of the statistics.

Roberts said a major problem for Vietnamese statistical work was the lack of co-operation between individuals, enterprises and organisations who provided the actual basic data.

“This is an issue related to the attitude among institutions who need to be aware that providing data is an important responsibility; they need to provide the necessary data accurately and quickly in order for the statistics to be compiled,” he said.

The Vietnamese statistics offices, including the GSO and ministries, also needed to talk to the data users more often to understand exactly what kind of information the users wanted, he said.

The expert said dissemination of statistics was also “really unsatisfactory” compared to other countries in the world.

“There is less information made available to the users. This really needs to have a significant change,” he said.

Dinh Hien Minh from the Central Institute of Economic Management, also said most available statistics were provided in an annual format, and there remained a shortage of quarterly and monthly statistics.

However, lots of improvements had been made by the country to improve its statistical capacity over recent years, said Roberts.

“Despite inadequacies, the overall picture is positive,” he said.

The UNDP country director Setsuko Yamazaki agreed, saying that Vietnamese statistical authorities had made great efforts to reform and improve operations, making it better able to meet the data needs of a fast changing economy.

These reforms included the development of the Statistical Law in 2003 and the setting up of the National Statistics Indicator System in 2005, which was revised and standardised earlier this year, she said.

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