THE HOYOS FILE: Central Bank’s à la carte beta nightmare
IT?OCCURRED?TO?ME last week, as I was reminiscing about the Budget speech and all the statistics it contained, that I couldn’t remember hearing too many numbers for the third quarter.
You know: July, August and September 2010.
Since Government didn’t bother to send a copy of the speech to me, I wasn’t able to do a word search to see if there were any. Anyway, I felt so burned out trying to assimilate the cruel logic contained in the Finance Minister’s proposals that I decided to move on and check the latest stats for myself, courtesy of the Central Bank of Barbados’ website.
But when I went looking for the third-quarter edition of the Economic & Financial Statistics (EFS), I came across a message that said, in part, “This processed statistical information, formerly available in the Economic and Financial Statistics (EFS), is now available in downloadable form, by variable, through Online Statistics.”
Basically, announced the bank, we have upgraded our reporting system for you so just click here and all will be revealed. Just select the section and relevant table you want, click for your time period and frequency, and you’ve got it! Then you can also choose to download the data to Excel or PDF format if you like.
Oh, did I mention that should you ever be tempted to enter said search engine you will find yourself, at least at this time, plunged into a beta “universe” still requiring lots of testing to get the “black holes” out, one that “does its own thing” more often than the thing you asked it to do, and that you would need to be a professional economist to be able to mine all the goodies contained therein?
Seems more time was spent getting the fancy new system up than giving us the data we need. Way to go, CB.
Amateurs like me would have thought that given the crisis in our country’s economic affairs, this would be the time to keep everyone, Government and public alike, up-to-date with the most timely numbers possible concerning imports, exports, commercial bank loans and deposits, the foreign reserves – you know, the usual stuff that goes into possibly the most important blow-by-blow report on the nation’s economy.
But it seems the other way round: getting a flashy new “dig-your-own-potatoes” search engine seems to have been given priority.
In other words, style over substance.
And one’s sense of confidence is not helped by reading the following disclaimer, highlighted in orange: “The Central Bank of Barbados assumes no responsibility regarding the accuracy of any information provided on the website. . . .”
Finding your way around the new Central Bank system is like being thrown into a jungle and trying to bring out all of the animals by family or species.
It’s now an à la carte dollar menu of economic stats. This system will be useful after you have understood the big picture and then want to do micro comparisons of certain figures.
But I had to actually open the previously downloaded June EFS pdf document to a page I wanted, then go onto the new search engine and try to recreate it.
Even when I did that, it was not as user-friendly, with lots of letters that seemed more to do with the coding than for the guidance of the reader.
After half an hour of frustration (you know, my attention span does not give me much longer than that), I actually pined for the golden days (August 2010) when I could download in pdf format the old EFS document and then peruse it at my pleasure.
Dear pdf EFS, I apologise for ever doubting your usefulness. All I wanted the bank to do was allow us to download you by page or in your entirety in Excel format as well, so that we could make our own trend and comparison tables more quickly and easily.
In retrospect, seems like a humble request.
So please, Central Bank, as I thank you for your forward-looking efforts to present to us new and innovative ways of accessing economic data, may I ask you to also put back up the pdf versions of the EFS? That way we would not have to spend so much time trying to recreate formats that we can rely on as we try to compare apples with apples.
Or are pdfs so yesterday?
At the other end of the spectrum, we have PricewaterhouseCoopers Barbados Banking Industry 2009 Performance Highlights. This document, which tots up all of the published financial reports of the local commercial bank operations, used to appear in August, and even then it was too late. PWC kindly sent me a copy with a cover letter dated November 10, 2010.
Now, if I were writing a history of the banking system, this would probably seem to be “hot off the Press” news, but as it is, its value is seriously diminished to people in the financial analysis business.
I mean we have already had three quarters of the current year, and the fourth will soon be history, too.
What use is it, from a news perspective, to be given all this data for 2009? Not much, in my book.
I now look forward to receiving the latest edition of the Red Book, published by Terra Caribbean to see what The Mallalieu Crew is predicting in the real estate sector for the coming year.
At least they try to be timely.