x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

You do the maths ...

The Department of Planning and Economy provided inflation figures, it later said were wrong, and blames the media.

Having an accurate inflation figure is of great importance to the direction of economic policy in the country.
Having an accurate inflation figure is of great importance to the direction of economic policy in the country.

What is the level of inflation in Abu Dhabi? It is a question that affects everyone in their pocket, and is also of great importance to the direction of economic policy in the country. But after two days of conflicting reports from the Abu Dhabi Department of Planning and Economy, the public still does not know the answer to that question. On Monday, department officials provided reporters with precise figures they said showed prices rising at an annualised rate of 12.88 per cent in the second quarter of this year.

But by the next day the department had issued a statement saying that this was not the correct figure. It did not specify what was incorrect or provide a correct one. The DPE appeared to blame the media for the confusion by saying in the written statement that it "criticised the inflation rate cited by the media yesterday as incorrect and inaccurate". It also said it "disclaimed responsibility" for the index published by the media, including in The National.

Below, we reproduce the original document provided by the DPE on Monday, which clearly shows the 12.88 per cent figure in the first row. What follows is a complete account of what happened. Journalists had gathered on Monday for a press conference on an unrelated topic - an account of how the DPE would start collecting data on the spending and income of 4,000 to 5,000 Abu Dhabi companies. Although many GCC countries publish inflation rates monthly, data for the UAE - and Abu Dhabi - are much less frequently released.

When one of the journalists asked for the latest inflation figures - as the most recent data only covered the first quarter of this year, a national accounts expert at the DPE said the DPE planned to incorporate a new "basket" of consumer goods into its calculations of inflation later this year. The first figures to incorporate the new basket would be released for the third quarter of this year. He deferred further questions on inflation to a senior statistical researcher at the department who was present in the audience.

At the end of the press conference, she printed out inflation data for the second quarter of this year and carefully explained the content and methodology of the calculations, which broke down price changes into eight categories of goods, isolating 12.88 per cent as the overall annual inflation rate for the second quarter of this year. This figure was promptly reported by the news agencies, and published in The National on Tuesday. It is these figures that the DPE now says are inaccurate.

The DPE officials have not responded to further inquiries regarding the figures by telephone or email. business@thenational.ae