BusinessCompany NewsLies, damn lies and statistics…

Lies, damn lies and statistics...

John Hawksworth, my fellow columnist, referred recently to the revisions to UK economic growth announced by the Office for National Statistics on 30 September, most notably, the doubling of its initial estimate of UK economic growth for each of the first quarter and second quarter of 2003.

In this context, may I make a suggestion that would apply to any circumstance where there was a major revision by the ONS to an earlier published figure.

In this case, the doubling of the second quarter 2003 GDP growth rate from an initial estimate of 0.3% to a revised 0.6% would surely count as a major revision. In these circumstances, it would be helpful to have an arithmetic reconciliation between, for example, the original 0.3% figure and the revised 0.6% figure.

In the private sector, where a finance director provides the board with a different final profit figure to their first estimate, they would be expected to provide an arithmetic reconciliation between the two. I submit that the ONS should be no different, notwithstanding the fact that I do appreciate national statistics are not based on double-entry bookkeeping.

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