The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) has taken a move to release estimate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on a quarterly basis despite shortage of its technical manpower.
Earlier, it took similar moves but later these failed mainly due to the same grounds. One such programme under the ADB-sponsored failed and another move under a big project named NSDS (National Strategy for the Development of the Statistics) was also unsuccessful.
However, the BBS this time has prepared a project in this regard at a cost of Tk 160 million.
People, familiar with the latest development, said If this move clicks, the national statistical organisation will be able to release the same from the first quarter (Q1) of the next financial year (2017-18).
Currently, the national accounting wing, which measures the GDP on both production and expenditure methods, releases the estimate on a yearly basis.
It prepares provisional data sometime in May each year based on data of major economic sectors. Then they take another one year for final GDP data.
The BBS took the move as many international development partners have been pressing hard to do the same for long. The central bank of Bangladesh and others also asked the BBS to do it.
"Our policymakers also want such data for taking decisions on policy matters," said an official.
Dr Zahid Hussain, lead economist at the Dhaka office of the World Bank told the FE that this is necessary considering development of the country.
But he says that the statistical organisation lacks technical personnel and manpower.
"To my mind, attaining those skills is not impossible," Dr Hussain said.
Dr Ahsan H Mansur, executive director at the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh (PRI) said the BBS needs technical assistance from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to prepare GDP data on quarterly basis.
He said, "We face many problems in mobilsing data, but the IMF's technical advisers will help overcome these problems and ensure quality of data," Dr Mansur said.
The BBS should set priority areas with a time-bound plan taking its capacity into account.
The economists called for making the agency an independent body to ensure that data are not manipulated on political considerations.
"Proper statistics is needed to attract local and foreign investment," said Dr Mansur.
He said quarterly data on GDP and growth would be good for the users.
Dr. Mustafa K Mujeri, a former director general of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said the BBS should frame strategies considering its capacity.
"We should set priorities at first and provide those statistics that are needed under the current five-year plan of the government," he said.
Earlier, the BBS outlined these in its draft National Strategy for the Development of Statistics, a 10-year plan aimed at producing timely, accurate and reliable statistics.
The agency planned to provide quarterly estimate on GDP by the end of 2013.