Jug­gling the num­bers does not tell the story

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - News - JUNE 15, 2018

SOME peo­ple sim­ply love to watch jug­glers. Whether they are watch­ing a show of ap­ples or eggs be­ing jug­gled, the au­di­ence en­joys the show with awe. How­ever, if you have to watch the one who is jug­gling with num­bers, you may be left dis­ap­pointed or at least un­com­fort­able.

Jug­gling num­bers is more and more preva­lent nowa­days. The jug­gler may be the one who is work­ing with the World Bank or the United Na­tions or who is just an ac­coun­tant or an econ­o­mist, but the awe­some­ness is still there and the dis­ap­point­ment will be there as well.

Let us take a closer look at the num­bers that are played with. The Gross Na­tional Prod­uct (GDP) is one set of num­bers that could be in­ter­preted in a num­ber of ways. Myan­mar’s GDP in 2016 was US$67.40 bil­lion. It es­sen­tially means that all goods and ser­vices pro­duced within the coun­try in that par­tic­u­lar year added up to that amount of dol­lars. It looks fine un­til you find another piece of nomen­cla­ture which says that there is another term called per capita GDP, which in­di­cated that the pre­vi­ous num­ber is di­vided by Myan­mar’s pop­u­la­tion in that year. That pro­duces another num­ber: $1420.50. There is still another num­ber, $5351.60, which is sim­ply called GDP per capita PPP. This means the per capita GDP ad­justed to the pur­chas­ing power par­ity of an or­di­nary cit­i­zen who re­sides in Myan­mar.

This may be com­plex enough for the or­di­nary man in the street, but it is just the be­gin­ning of a long in­tro­duc­tory chap­ter in any eco­nom­ics text­book. Then there are the com­pli­cated num­bers called the GDP growth rates. These are ex­pressed in per­cent­age points. To ex­plain it in the sim­plest way pos­si­ble – the GDP growth rate for the same year men­tioned above, that is for 2016, was 6.3 per­cent.

What do all those num­bers mean for a man in a re­mote Myan­mar vil­lage or for a fe­male mem­ber of par­lia­ment in the cap­i­tal Nay Pyi Taw? Does each num­ber or the whole set of those num­bers re­flect the gen­uine lives and liveli­hoods of the peo­ple any­where in the na­tion in a com­pre­hen­sive way? The num­bers them­selves do not tell any­thing about the poverty or the wealth of any cit­i­zen. The num­bers do not re­veal that we are happy or sad or con­fused.

There are num­ber jug­glers out there but they never tell the whole story or the truth.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.