Sunday 20 August 2017

Don't go down the statistics glen, for fear of little men

Brendan Keenan

Brendan Keenan

WELL, that didn't take long. Just the other week, the Central Bank published data showing that private sector debt as a percentage of GDP had fallen by almost a quarter. Leprechaun alert!

The bank did indeed warn us to beware of little men, although not quite in those words. The data "incorporate recent CSO revisions to the National Accounts and International Investment Position", it said. Indeed they do.

The change in the statistical treatment of national accounts did not just grossly inflate figures for GDP, by adding the assets of multinational companies claiming theoretical residence in Ireland. The countervailing debt landed on the Irish books as well.

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