Sat, 13 Aug 1994

Inflation rate is accurate, chief statistician insists

JAKARTA (JP): The government's chief statistician said yesterday that the national inflation rate, which is released each month by the Central Statistics Bureau (BPS), is as accurate as possible.

Chief of the BPS Sugito Suwito said the consumer price index is based on the price movements of a wide range of goods and services, with basic necessities such as food and housing carrying greater weight.

"Most laymen have an incorrect perception about BPS's work because of their ignorance about how the data is collected," he said in his first press conference since he was appointed to the post on Aug. 5.

Many people have suggested that there is the inclusion of luxury goods in order to produce the final inflation rate.

"That's wrong," he said, adding that the rate should be based more on basic necessities consumed by a large number of people such as rice, water and electricity.

He insisted that the bureau is operating independently of other government institutions, including when it compiles the consumer price index, which he admitted is the bureau's most widely criticized body of statistics.

The accuracy of the monthly and annual inflation figures have often been questioned, with some suggesting that they might have been fixed to meet government objectives.

The government, for example, has vowed to maintain the annual inflation rate into a single digit. True enough, the rate has been kept to just under 10 percent in recent years.

Many people, particularly housewives and workers vying for cost of living wage increases, said the consumer price index does not reflect the reality they find in the marketplace.

Now, with the Sixth Five-Year Development underway since April, the government has vowed to keep the inflation rate to an average of five percent for the next five years.

The consumer price index has already increased by 5.96 percent since January.

Sugito warned that unless the nation was careful, the inflation rate this year could shoot into a double digits. He said the recent hikes in the price of rice could be a telling factor.

He said the prices of rice, electricity, gasoline and public transport fares are among the commodities and services that carry the largest weight in calculating the inflation rate.

Sugito said that companies which organized important commodities such as the electricity company PLN, water company PAM and logistic agency Bulog should think twice before deciding to increase the prices.

He said the promise made by the state oil firm Pertamina not to increase gasoline prices deserved praise because it would help to suppress inflation.

Sugito also presented the latest edition of the bureau's Indonesia's Population Census 1990, yesterday. The 145-page book consists of graphics illustrating the 1990 census, with comparisons to the ones that proceeded it.

The 1990 population census was the fourth carried out in Indonesia. The previous census were held in 1961, 1971 and 1980. (par)