“Factually” Incorrect: The IMF Restatement

Balding's World

It has been brought to my attention that the Singapore government has created website called Factually where they “present the facts.”  On this website they address such issues as “why did the IMF restate Singapore’s fiscal data?” and “Is there something wrong with our Reserves?”  In these “factual” articles by the Singaporean government they complain about “recent online articles” questioning the veracity and reliability of Singaporean data.  As I have had people, both those criticizing and encouraging me, to respond, I will respond to the Singaporean governments response.

I will begin with their short response to the IMF restatement of Singaporean public finance data.  There are two primary points about the Singaporean response.  First, it says nothing.   All of the information put forward in their response could have been written by someone with no knowledge of Singaporean public finances who did nothing more than read my original blog post.  Here are some side by side comparisons:

1a.          The IMF increased the size of the Singaporean government surplus from $271 billion SGD to $429 billion SGD between 1990 and 2011.

1b.          The restatement increased the figure for the cumulative government surplus for the period 1990-2011 from $271bn as reported in the WEO database in September 2011 to $429bn in April 2012.

2a.          The IMF initially responded by saying the re-restatement in August of 2012 was to “address some technical issues” with the original restatement.

2b.          The restatement of data in the WEO database was due to technical errors in the course of an IMF data migration exercise.

3a.          The difference between the original value of $271 billion SGD and the re-restated value of $267 billion SGD is slightly more than $4 billion SGD.

3b.          The IMF corrected the errors in August 2012 when it reported a cumulated government surplus of $267bn for the period.

Without looking, can you tell which is which?  In short, there is virtually no information contained in their response that was not contained in my original post.  There is no response other than to restate what I stated in my blog.  That is not much of a response but I am impressed that the Singapore government will use what I have written.

Second, the Singaporean governments response is completely wrong on the most important factual point about the restatement.  The Singaporean government writes that they had been accused of “under-reporting our government revenues and surpluses.”  This is a flat out lie.

I write about the restatement that “most interestingly, the increase in the surplus came not from an increase in revenue but rather a decrease in government expenditure.”  I specifically say that the IMF data increasing the surplus did not come from a change in revenue.  In other words, the Singaporean government is accusing me of saying things that I emphasize are not true.

The Singaporean government does not respond to what I say so much as say the same thing that I say except for the section where they purposefully accuse me of saying something where I clearly said the opposite.  It is therefore very difficult to see how the Singaporean government actually disagrees with me here or where they take issue with what I said.

The last point is that at no point in the post about the fiscal restatement does Singapore dispute what I say is the most important point: with or without the restatement there remain “remain enormous discrepancies in Singaporean public finances.”  With or without the IMF restatement, there remain large discrepancies in Singapore data and they are not addressed.

In summation, the Singapore government merely restates what I said and lies about the primary fact in question.  Hopefully, they will become more truthful about data and their statements about it.