Pernia denies manipulating August 2018 inflation data

MANILA, Philippines – National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Ernesto Pernia dismissed speculations that the government manipulated the latest inflation rate and made it lower than it actually is.

August inflation clocked in at 6.4%, exceeding most estimates.

But rumors quickly spread across banks and the trading floor that the figure was actually higher, at 6.6%, after the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) failed to release the figures at exactly 9 am on September 5.

Pernia, however, admitted that there was a miscalculation, which had to be corrected and led to the delay.

The Inquirer reported that the PSA miscalculated prices under the education commodity group. The report states that the agency did not take into account the free tuition scheme recently implemented in state colleges and universities.

"It's normal that PSA's first data releases are preliminary, i.e., subject to revisions. This applies to national income accounts such as GDP (gross domestic product) etc," Pernia said in a text message to reporters.

"Recall that the 2016 GDP growth was first reported at 6.8%, later revised much later to 6.9%. Similarly, 2018 Q1 GDP growth was 6.6%, later changed to 6.4%. In the case of 2018 August inflation, the revision was also an appropriate and necessary corrigendum (Latin for 'to be corrected') as the error was detected early," he added.

The socioeconomic planning chief went on to say that there "was no intention of hiding" the inflation figures.

The initial 6.6% figure was also included in a PowerPoint presentation by Finance Undersecretary Tony Lambino shown to the media on Monday, September 10.

The PSA apologized for the delay, but claimed that it was due to "technical difficulties" that bogged down its website. The PSA never mentioned the revision as the cause of the delay. – 

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.