STATISTICS IS THE MOST EUROPIZED BRANCH IN BULGARIA
Alexander Hadjiisky, Chairman of NSI, to the BANKER weeklyMr. Hadjiisky, the living standard in each country is assessed on the basis of the so-called basket of goods and services, on which the main macroeconomic indicators such as inflation rate, price index, etc. are calculated. What has been left in the Bulgarian's basket, the more so as deflation has been registered for the first half of 2003? What is common in the contents of the Bulgarian basket and those of the EU countries?- These is no any difference between our basket and their baskets. The methodology for calculating these parameters in Bulgaria and in the EU is one and the same. It is published in INTERNET and we have acquainted all international organisations with it. Our methodology has been fully synchronized with the EU requirements. This issue was very morbid five years ago and we made quite an effort to bring our methodology in compliance with that of the EU. However, I have to point out that the Bulgarian already spends less money for food. From 51% of the family budget this share has dropped to about 40 per cent. How would you comment this fact? Does it mean that our living standard has increased and is already approximating living standards in the EU?- On one hand, this is really good. EU citizens spend about 25% of their incomes on average for food. The balance goes for savings, purchase of real estates and movable property - housing, villas, cars, travelling, etc. So, the tendency is positive in that respect. On the other hand, this could mean something else - that Bulgarians have begun eating less. This means that the share of foodstuffs in their family budget has decreased in absolute value, but this could be also due to lower consumption. As far as deflation is concerned, this is not so positive a phenomenon as it might seem. According to me, it is an alarming fact that in 2002 the inflation rate was 5-6%, and now we suddenly registered deflation for the first six months of 2003. Which is the major unsolved problem of Bulgarian statistics now? - Perhaps, this is the gathering of information. Principally, maximum use of administrative data is the main tendency in statistics. For example, taking the census of the population in Finland was solely based on the information from administrative registers. For the time being this is the only country where this is done, but as a whole statistics all around the world moves in that direction. Many ministries in Bulgaria possess data, we go and get it from there. Of course, each institution collects information that is relevant to its tasks, but anyway this information is available and we try to use it to the maximum possible extent. I'll again point to Finland as an example - 20% of all statistical informatiion in that country is gathered by polls, the remaining 80% comes from the administrative registers of various institutions. Which kind of information is most difficult to be collected?- We encounter most difficulties in gathering business information. We are not always able to explain what we want exactly; some firms refuse to provide us data about their activities by the motive that it's a company secret; others point out as a reason the fact that they have been polled for a second or a third year in succession, etc. But generally, private firms in Bulgaria understand the problems of statistics. However, we do not provide information about companies, as it is considered confidential, and confidentiality is a basic principle of statistics. There are parameters that cannot be made public. We may only provide data that could be also found in the public register of BULSTAT.Do you possess accurate data about the share of grey economy in Bulgaria. How do you collect and process information of that kind?- The National Statistics Institute (NSI) does not gather such data as this is not our business. But we can do something else - we could analyze the information according to the so-called mirror method by comparing the difference between what has been registered as Bulgarian export and what has been registered as import to another country. Frequently, there is a huge difference, which sometimes amounts to million of US dollars. However, I believe the share of grey economy is gradually decreasing. When we introduced the BULSTAT register there was initially opposition against it. We could not understand how many local firms were really operating, what their output was, what quantities they had exported, etc. Now the register is already full. About 800,000 entities have been registered in it.