Although new governance provisions for the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) announced by the Pakistan government have received a generally positive response, there have been calls to follow the UK model and make the appointment of the chief statistician accountable to the parliament.
In response to widespread perceptions of political manipulation of official statistics, the PBS was set up in early 2010 in a bid to increase autonomy and make official data provision more responsive to the country’s requirements. It combined the Federal Bureau of Statistics, Population Census and Agricultural Census organisations, and the technical wing of the government statistics division.
Earlier this month Federal Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Sheikh announced that the chief statistician post would be advertised and the appointee will report to PBS’s new governing council.
The council’s 10 members will be chosen from six categories including economists, high profile financial professionals, academics, business people and policymakers. But it will be chaired by the Finance Minister and this has raised concerns of potential abuse.
The Recorder cited the UK – specifically the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007
, resultant establishment of the UK Statistics Authority, and constitutional arrangements for appointment of the chief statistician – as a model to emulate.
It said that the existing government proposals did “not even come close to the UK model” and expressed misgivings about the Minister of Finance’s chairing of the governing council.
“The government, its critics argue, is simply not ready to cede control that would be in the long-term economic interests of this country in terms of … an independent PBS,” the Business Recorder concluded.