More economic forecasting bodies needed to aid policymakers, says economist

PETALING JAYA: An economist today suggested that more independent organisations capable of making economic forecasts should be set up to help policymakers make good decisions.

Geoffrey Williams of the Malaysia University of Science and Technology (MUST) said: “This is important in helping policymakers choose the right policies as the organisations would be able to tell what is likely to happen and the various outcomes of various policies.”

Saying there was a “relative lack” of independent economic forecasting organisations here, Williams said this might not have mattered much when the economy was stable and growing.

“But in the environment being experienced now, we need different organisations with different views on the impact of various types of policies to help government planners choose which to implement,” he added.

He was speaking at the virtual plenary session of the 8th Malaysia Statistics Conference today themed Navigating Resilient Recovery through Statistics.

Williams said there were “about 13” independent forecasting centres in the United Kingdom which were able to provide views and produce various forecasts on the economy.

He spoke about how statistics, such as the unemployment statistics, could highlight structural problems that needed to be addressed.

He encouraged the teaching and use of more statistics in the higher education curriculum and hoped more would take up data analytics-related programmes.

At the same session, Yeah Kim Leng, director of the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia, spoke on the role of statistics in accessing short-term and long-term economic impacts and differentiating between temporary and permanent scarring effects on a country.

Titi Kanti Lestari, the finance, IT and tourism statistics director of BPS-Statistics Indonesia, shared the experience of statisticians in Indonesia in carrying out work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This included changing data collecting methods, redesigning surveys and coping with budget cuts.

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