Economic Policy Review ISSN 1313 - 0544

Bulgarian Statistics as a Tax

Author: Metodi Lazarov / 26.07.2007
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Generally speaking every economic activity needs some empirical data so that past and current trends could be analyzed in order to be incorporated in future strategic plans. That is in short the task of every analytical unit within a bigger organization. The efficiency of this unit proportionally transposes in a higher degree of success of the organization itself. The quality of services provided by the National Statistics Institute (NSI), however, acts as a tax on all of us and imposes unnecessary administrative hindrances upon business.

The purchase of an ordinary statistical yearbook together with a CD requires the waste of a minimum of 20 minutes during some lazy afternoon. Unintentionally one becomes a witness of the sluggishness of the administration that gets on one's nerves while one is hopping into different rooms till one finally receives the product. Almost the same scenario repeats itself when one requests the retrieval of electronic data over Internet, the provision of which usually prolongs beyond the agreed deadlines. The efficiency of the institution might be good enough according to its managers but NSI is still in business only because of its status of state agency, meaning bankruptcy in no cases because of the stable financing from state subsidies. Any other private company would have lost its clients if it demonstrated the same organizational behaviour - if one does not provide good services, it gets eaten by the rivalry. It is a indisputable fact that some of the economic indicators, prepared by NSI, get ousted by more reputable ones - good examples are real estate and other sectors of the economy, that are treated with special interest by investors to whom any loss of time is crucial.

Our suggestions in tact with the principles of the European Statistics Code of Practice:

  • The organizational structure needs to be reformulated in such a way that managers are left with some space to dispense employees and increase the wages of others. That should increase the efficiency of NSI (which is put in the Code as number 10), because data shows the number of employees is too high in comparison to other Institutes in Eastern Europe.
  • New working methods and valuable know-how of other statistical institutes need to be incorporated so that the twelfth principle (reliability of official data) is taken into consideration. Some types of statistics from NSI are practically useless because of their inconsistence with reality. The insufficient demand of such data could at least hint at the managers to stop research in these areas because other players are providing better service. That could save funds for the redesign of the long obsolete website of NSI.
  • The eleventh principle pleads for practical applicability and public worthiness of the activity of statistical institutes. It is absolutely vital that NSI introduces online payment system and more convenient and quicker access to any data. It is common for the statistics institute in the EU to provide the greater part of its data free of charge while NSI requires payments for data, relevant to all sectors in the economy. We are not against NSI self-financing its activities but not while it is being subsidized by the state because we as consumers need to pay twice for its services - direct taxes and charges per each request.

The problem with national statistics is growing while political will to solve this daily obstacle to many companies continues to be lacking. The Bulgarian economy is modernizing and developing but NSI seems somehow behind that rate of growth. It is probably sheer madness to start a public debate about NSI being privatized but that seems to be the only clear and effective way out of the problem. The government needs to bear in mind that state intervention even in statistics causes loss of weal