* Opposition alleges govt manipulates economic data; govt rejects
* Government also in the process to change inflation data
By Shihar Aneez
COLOMBO, May 13 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka will upgrade its gross domestic product (GDP) compilation method to reflect international standards from next year, a top government official said on Tuesday, after repeated criticism that authorities overestimated economic growth.
The new compilation method will capture all of the new economic activities in the $67 billion economy, with a change in the base year, said D.C.A. Gunawardena, the head of state-run Department of Census and Statistics.
“We are going to move the base year to 2010 from 2002 with new updated classification using International Standards Industrial Classification,” Gunawardena told Reuters, referring to the United Nations system for classifying economic data.
“We hope to introduce the new method from the first quarter of next year. It will be compiled according to the latest international statistical standard for the national accounts.”
The IMF last year said Sri Lanka’s national accounts “suffer from insufficient data sources and undeveloped statistical techniques” and the method for deriving gross domestic product at constant prices was “not satisfactory”.
The global lender, however, has said it has been using the government’s official historic data for its own estimates.
The statistics office is also in the process of changing its inflation index to change the basket of items and broaden coverage to the whole nation rather than just the capital city.
The changes in the both economic indicators come as opposition legislators have repeatedly criticised President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government of long overstating growth estimates and giving unrealistic inflation figures aiming at getting lower rates on foreign loans and attracting foreign investors.
But the government has rejected the claim of manipulating economic data.
Official figures show Sri Lanka’s annual economic growth has been more than 6.3 percent every year since 2009 and the inflation rate, under the current index and a previous one had been in single digits since February 2009.
The government sacked the former acting director at the National Accounts Department of the Statistics office after a probe into his internal statement that stated the 2013 first-quarter growth figure was increased to 6 percent from the original 5.4 percent in his absence just before the official release. (Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Kim Coghill)