Moving to

I'm moving to Mostly.

I plan to use that site as a "self-marketing website" of sorts and to manage content in a way that I would otherwise not be able to do on blogger alone.

This blog will stay, ostensibly for more provisional ideas prior to refinement. I'll be gradually moving content (I still like) over to the other website. =)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Economic Data Should Be Revealed to All

I refer to two recent Straits Times articles "Academics call for more detailed, regular data sharing" (25 Oct 2011) and "Two areas where information gaps can be plugged" (25 Oct 2011). I largely agree with the positions taken by academics on availability of data collected by government agencies.

However, one of the articles hints that some academics have been lobbying for economic information to be revealed to them without public release. One of the above articles reported that an economist has urged the Central Provident Board to "trust Singaporean academics not to reveal data at the micro level". I believe such selective revelation to be wrong.

I take exception to the implicit contention that academic economists should receive raw economic data from the government while taxpayers and business owners who actually finance the collection of that data are kept in the dark. More tangibly, such data has commercial value and should be revealed to all so as to avoid granting unfair potential commercial advantages to a few parties, current and former government employees included.

It may also be noted that private sales of the results of analyses of the data may take place that do not violate the letter of any agreement to not reveal raw data. In fact, to the numerically savvy, this can be done in a manner such that it becomes relatively easy to "invert" for a good partial picture of the raw data. (The technical term would be to deconvolve aggregated results.)

Furthermore, selective revelation poses the further problem of selecting from the number of academics assessed to be competent enough to produce useful analyses those that are "trustworthy".

All data should be released so all businesses and analysts can benefit from it to the extent of their capability to analyse. This is the fair option, and the Singapore economy will be richer off for it.


Anonymous said...

How could economic data (in fact all data) be released to the public and be transparent to all if the Official Secret Act (OSA) is in place? Do you know even some insignificant data are kept as top secret by the civil servant and government agency for fear of violating this OSA. The OSA is as bad as the ISA. Any possible wrong doings will be easily covered up if it is related or made to relate to any government agency because of OSA. For example, the recent research fraud case in NUS, the public will probably know the surface because the details cannot be open to public due to OSA and NUS is an government institution.

convexset said...

Classification matters. Over classification by public officials concerned about playing it safe is a problem. It may make sense to set release dates for new documents, and maintain the presumption that documents will be released. Late or non-release will have to be justified and with the reasons documented as an annex to the document.