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In Search of Answers: My Correspondence with The Statistics Department


Whilst I continue with my attempts to hold the MOF up to proper scrutiny,  we must not forget the discrepancies in our Budget. I have decided to make the following exchange of correspondence available as a public service and an exercise in transparency.  It is in chronological order but those of you who find it a bit dull may wish to skip to the end. There I discover another discrepancy and  I am still awaiting a response. Unfortunately the Statistics Department have become ominously silent since I drew it to their attention five days ago.

A bit of context:

In February I produced a response to the government’s Budget 2012  in my role as SG of RP.(http://thereformparty.net/about/press-releases/budget-2012-part-one/ ) Naturally this was not published in the MSM or even on TOC.  The MSM is a political tool used to isolate me and make the Party look inactive. As for TOC, I guess the editor Ravi Philemon preferred  to give prominence to the pro -PAP budget  responses of  his friends in his usual partisan manner.

I pointed out that the Budget was not set out according to the Special Data Dissemination Standards of the IMF and that vital information was missing, particularly concerning the state of the reserves invested in our SWFs, Temasek and GIC.

After I looked at the government’s Statements of Assets and Liabilities dating back to 2004, I was particularly concerned that the net assets, (after subtracting from total assets government debt held by CPF as well as amounts needed to fund government pension funds and other educational and medical funds) , was much lower than to be expected given the advertised returns of Temasek and GIC as well as the limited information that was available to me on the general government surpluses from 2004 to 2010 from the Yearbook of Statistics.

In order to confirm my suspicions that there were serious discrepancies I wrote to the Statistics Department on 23rd May 2012.

Enquiry sent on:-5/23/2012 4:22:53 PM

Name :Kenneth Jeyaretnam
Email :kjeyaretnam@gmail.com
Organisation :The Reform Party
Designation :Secretary-General
Country :Singapore
Nature of Business :Non-Government Organisation
Purpose of Obtaining Data :Internal Research and Analysis
Type of Occupation :Economist
Query :General Government Finance
Government Finance

Annual

1980-2011
Years Selected :2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999
Type of Business Statistics :
Types of Industry/Activity :

_________________________________________________________________________

I received this response.

Dear Mr Jeyaretnam,

 We refer to your request of 23 May 2012.

 The data breakdowns for General Government Finance are as follows:

 

Deficit (-) or Surplus 1
Total Revenue and Grants
Revenue 2
Expenditure & Lending minus Repayments
Expenditure
Lending minus Repayments
Total Financing
Domestic Financing
From Monetary Authorities
From Deposit Money Banks
Other Domestic Financing
Foreign Financing

 

Notes :  Presentation format of the table follows that of the National Summary Data Page (NSDP) for Singapore, which disseminates
the data prescribed by the International Monetary Fund’s Special Data Dissemination Standards (SDDS). Data in the table
represent a broader definition of Government revenues and receipts than what are permissible for Government spending
as presented in each year’s Budget Statement. This is because some revenues and receipts accrue to the Government’s past reserves,
which cannot be drawn on without the approval of the President.
  General government finance includes budgetary and extra-budgetary accounts.
  Data refer to the financial year which begins in April of the current year and ends in March of the following year.
1 Accrues to both current and past reserves and does not reflect budget position of the government.
2 Includes land sales and capital receipts (which accrue primarily to past reserves) in addition to taxes and other revenues.

 

The data breakdowns for Government Finance are as follows:

 

Deficit (-) or Surplus 1
Total Revenue and Grants
Revenue 2
Expenditure & Lending minus Repayments
Expenditure
Lending minus Repayments
Total Financing
Domestic Financing
Total Net Borrowing
Use of Cash Balances
Foreign Financing
     
 
Notes :  Presentation format of the table follows that of the National Summary Data Page (NSDP) for Singapore, which disseminates
the data prescribed by the International Monetary Fund’s Special Data Dissemination Standards (SDDS). Data in the table
represent a broader definition of Government revenues and receipts than the fiscal position presented during each year’s Budget
under Singapore’s Constitution as it includes the revenues and receipts accruing to both the Government’s current and past reserves.
1 Accrues to both current and past reserves and does not reflect fiscal position of the current term of government.
2 Includes land sales and capital receipts (which accrue primarily to past reserves) in addition to taxes and other revenues.
 

We would appreciate it if you could let us know the annual data series you require so that we could check on the data availability and compute the appropriate charge.

 Thank you.

 Regards

Lue Poh Choo (Ms)

Singapore Department of Statistics

 From: info@singstat.gov.sg [mailto:info@singstat.gov.sg]
Sent: Wednesday, 23 May, 2012 4:23 PM
To: SINGSTAT Info (SINGSTAT)
Subject: Statistical Enquiry from SingStat Website 23/5/2012 at 4:22:53 PM

 _______________________________________________________________________________

I wrote back on 24th May 2012:

Strictly you have not given me any data merely the format in which it is presented. I would like all the data for both categories General Government Finance and Government Finance for the period requested.

 Please let me know what will be the cost ASAP.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Their response the same day was as follows:

Dear Mr Jeyaretnam,

 We refer to your email of 24 May 2012.

 Our Department is able to provide the following annual data series, for your internal research and analysis, at $49.60:

 General Government Finance

 

earliest available

latest available

Deficit (-) or Surplus 1

1998

2010

   Total Revenue and Grants

1998

2010

      Revenue 2

1998

2010

   Expenditure & Lending minus Repayments

1998

2010

      Expenditure

1998

2010

      Lending minus Repayments

1998

2010

Total Financing

1998

2010

   Domestic Financing

1998

2010

      From Monetary Authorities

1998

2010

      From Deposit Money Banks

1998

2010

      Other Domestic Financing

1998

2010

Foreign Financing

1998

2010

 

Government Finance

 

earliest available latest available
Deficit (-) or Surplus 1 1986 2011
   Total Revenue and Grants 1986 2011
      Revenue 2 1986 2011
   Expenditure & Lending minus Repayments 1986 2011
      Expenditure 1986 2011
      Lending minus Repayments 1986 2011
Total Financing 1986 2011
   Domestic Financing 1993 2011
      Total Net Borrowing 1986 2011
      Use of Cash Balances 1986 2011
Foreign Financing 1993 2011

 If you are interested in obtaining the data, please proceed to make payment online viahttp://www.singstat.gov.sg/svcs/payment.html . Please quote your bill reference number (QG25660)  when you make payment online. We will send the data to you once we have received the appropriate amount.  Thank you.

 Regards

Wong Pui Mun (Ms)

Singapore Department of Statistics

_______________________________________________________________________________

I replied as follows, again on the same day:

Thank you for your response. 

This is very poor. Why can’t I get data from earlier than 1998 for General Government Finance? It’s not as though the government does not have records. What is it trying to hide?

 Almost all the data you are proposing to sell me can be obtained online and from past copies of the Yearbook of Statistics so if this is the best you can do I must decline. Also why should citizens and political parties pay for information that should be freely available? 

_______________________________________________________________________________

On 25th May I received the following reply:

Dear Mr Jeyaretnam,

 Please refer to your email of 24 May 2012.

 We would like to clarify that we were unable to provide you with data for 1980 – 1997 as these are not available in our database. We have since checked from other data sources for the data series for 1980 to 1997.

 As requested, I attach the following General Government Finance data series for 1980-2010 :

  1. a.     1980-1997 (please see attached file)
  2. b.    1998-2003 (please see scanned page1 )
  3. c.      2004-2009 (please see scanned page 2) and
  4. d.    2010 (please see attached file)

Regards

Wong Pui Mun (Ms)

Singapore Department of Statistics

_______________________________________________________________________________

 I wrote back to thank the Statistics Department for their hard work on 26th May:

On 26 May 2012 16:38, Kenneth Jeyaretnam <kjeyaretnam@gmail.com> wrote:
Thank you very much for your help. I appreciate that you have done a lot of work to get me this.
 _______________________________________________________________________________

 Based on the information supplied I then wrote to the Finance Minister on 1st June 2012 with some questions but have yet to receive a reply or even an acknowledgement. That letter is on this blog and has been reproduced here and there so I won’t repost  it.

Using the information supplied by the Statistics Department as well as the IMF data given me by Chris Balding I calculated that the total general government surpluses amounted to some $429 billion since 1980 whereas our net assets in the SAL were shown as at 31st March 2011 to be about $288 billion. This is bad enough. However, if GIC and Temasek’s claimed returns are not in the surpluses, as Chris Balding believes and has stated then the discrepancies would be truly astronomical.

My next piece of forensic work was to look at the government’s Operational Surplus going as far back as possible to try to isolate the part of the surplus which was due to the SWFs as well as receipts from land sales.

On 2 June 2012 I wrote to the Statistics Department as follows:

Would you be able to email me the data for 17.3, 17.4 and 17.5 dating back to 1970 [Tables in the Yearbook] or thereabouts? If you don’t have data earlier than 1980 that’s fine also. Also can you extend the data for 17.1 further back in time?

I really appreciate the hard work you are doing.

Regards,

Kenneth

 On 4th June 2012 I received the following response:

Dear Mr Jeyaretnam,

We refer to your email of 2 Jun 2012.

We are looking into your request and will respond to you.

 Regards

Wong Pui Mun (Ms)

Singapore Department of Statistics

 My response of 4th June:

Thank you. Much appreciated.

 On 13th June the Statistics Department replied with the requested data:

Dear Mr Jeyaretnam,

We refer to your email of 2 Jun 2012. The available data for the requested tables (based on calendar years) are attached below.

Government Operating Revenue

Government Operating Expenditure

Government Developing Expenditure

Thank you.

Regards

Wong Pui Mun (Ms)

Singapore Department of Statistics

 After I noticed a discrepancy with regard to Operating Revenue I wrote to the Statistics Department on 22nd June pointing this out and requesting an explanation:

Dear Ms. Wong,

Thank you very much for your help in this matter.

 I have come across a discrepancy between the figure for 1999 for Operating Revenue given in the YoS 2000 and YoS 2005 extracts supplied by you. In 2000 it is given as 28,619.2 ($ millions) and in the 2005 extract  the figure is given as 25,597.3. 

Would you very kindly be able to shed some light on this discrepancy?

 Regards,

 Kenneth

So far I have yet to receive a reply. I hope there is a simple explanation for it.

In addition I have now been able to do some more work on the figures supplied to me by the Statistics Department and hope to be able to make public my conclusions in the next few days. At the moment I have to say it is not looking good…

8 Comments »

  1. Bless you Kenneth. I am sure your father would be very proud of you. You uphold his principles of justice and compassion for your fellow citizens. Bless you.

    Like

    • ben, nothing sinister. That is just the way I filled in the online form moving across the page on the dept website, section to section and it came out like that in the acknowledgment email. There wasn’t an option for, “give me everything from xxxx – 2011.”
      As you see, even with that option available, had I requested it, they didn’t even have the data. Why not ?,one might ask. Who does have our statistics if they don’t hold them. I wonder where they went to get them?

      Like

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