IMF says pandemic may skew economic data and cause them to be less accurate

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Coronavirus pandemic may skew economic data and cause them to be less accurate, IMF says

One crucial hurdle in producing reliable and timely economic statistics during the pandemic is the lockdown measures that have kept the staff of national statistical offices at home, said the IMF.

"For example, the calculation of retail prices often requires physical visits to stores but this is currently not possible in many countries," the fund explained. "Similarly, surveying businesses about their production and investment plans is difficult as many have temporarily shut down or simply do not have the resources to respond to statistical questionnaires," it added.

More accurate and real-time information will help countries continue to respond more effectively to the crisis and start planning for the recovery.Such disruptions would cause data on prices and production — which are critical for monetary policy and fiscal stimulus decisions — to be delayed or estimated based on partial information, according to the IMF.

The ongoing pandemic has also highlighted the importance of frequently updated data that allow policymakers to make "the best-informed decisions," the fund said. Many traditional official statistics "are just not sufficiently up to date to be useful at this time," it added.The IMF said there are ways to overcome those challenges, including using alternative sources of information.

 

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