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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Central Bank’s latest report on living conditions across Sri Lanka

Daily Mirror: 26/09/2005"

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka formally launched its Report on the Consumer Finances and Socio-Economic Survey (CFS) 2003/04 at the Auditorium of the Centre for Bank Studies, Rajagiriya, on September 14th. Since the start of the CFS series in 1953, this is the eighth survey in the series conducted by the Bank, the previous one being in 1996/97. The CFS 2003/04 Report has been published in two parts.

Part 1 analyses the findings, while Part 2 provides statistical tables derived from the survey data with detailed disaggregation by the nine provinces, three sectors (urban, rural and estate) and gender, wherever the data enable such disaggregation. A highlight of the launch was the release of the CFS report in the electronic media, using state of the art technology in data dissemination, in parallel to the release in print.

The CFS series is regarded both nationally and internationally as one of the most reliable and representative sources of socio-economic information on Sri Lanka (Table 1). The recent launching of the survey report was the culmination of nearly 4 years of continuous work from start to finish, as the planning cycle for the survey began in January 2002. A major achievement of the CFS 2003/04 was its coverage of most of the Northern and Eastern provinces after a lapse of over 20 years (Table 2).

This was made possible by the conduct of the Population Census 2001 and the ceasefire agreement in early 2002. The main objective of the survey was to collect comprehensive socio-economic data on households, covering individual characteristics of household inhabitants such as gender, age, marital status, health status, education level and labour force status, physical characteristics of households such as housing conditions and ownership of household amenities and land, and financial characteristics of households such as their income, expenditure, savings, investment and borrowing patterns.

Distinction has to be made between a large scale sample survey in the nature of the CFS, that covers the entire country using a scientifically chosen sample based on a sampling frame, and small, survey-type case studies with relatively small population coverage that do not use a sampling frame. Since the resources, both human and financial, involved in small case studies are relatively much smaller, they are more frequently conducted than large-scale sample surveys. Quite often, however, public perception and opinion is influenced by unwitting extrapolation of evidence from small case studies to the entire population.

It is therefore extremely important to note that the estimates from a large-scale sample survey provide for a balanced representation of the entire population, while the statistical estimation from a case study is limited to its coverage only, and cannot be extrapolated under any circumstances to, or taken to be representative of, a larger population. In fact, findings from the latter can deviate considerably from overall population characteristics, as such case studies are usually focussed on specific issues relevant only to the small sub-populations they cover.

The process of selecting a sample of households in the CFS that ensured representation of the population of households in the country at province, district and sector level was carried out using well-established scientific sampling techniques. The sample of households was first divided into 4 equal sub samples to be covered in 4 different rounds of 3 months each, spanning a full calendar year. Then, each sub-sample was selected in proportion to the household densities across districts and sectors, as identified from the Census 2001 household lists.

This ensured the quality and representation of the statistical estimates, which captured both the calendar year seasonality in income and expenditure, as well as household density across the country. Moreover, the survey covered a representative sample of around 12,000 households across the entire country. The statistical information generated in the CFS Report 2003/04 therefore provides reliable estimation of key socio-economic indicators up to the provincial level.

The quality of socio-economic data from the CFS series was also maintained, as the field visits to households was conducted by a dedicated team of trained field investigators under the strict supervision of officers of the Central Bank with years of experience in statistical surveys. Most of the information provided by the survey respondents in relation to demographic characteristics and physical assets of households were verified by the field investigators during three visits to each household, and information on household finances were internally cross checked by matching income with expenditure against movements in household assets and liabilities during the reference period, thus forming a database of hard evidence of high quality.

Since a large-scale survey of the nature of CFS covers many socio-economic dimensions, the CFS 2003/04 Report Part 1 published by the Central Bank does not encompass detailed analysis of each socio-economic issue that could be of interest to different stakeholders. Instead, the report highlights the salient broad findings of the survey, and key issues that need to be further investigated to establish causes and remedial action, which could be addressed by macro level policy makers and other interested parties.

Following the release of the CFS 2003/04 Report, the micro data from the CFS could be made available to prospective researchers for deeper analysis in their areas of policy and academic interest. It is anticipated that deeper and more detailed studies on various socio-economic dimensions will be undertaken by the relevant authorities and stakeholders using the CFS micro data.

The CFS data also provides vital information for the private sector on consumption and consumer preferences, investment patterns and investment preferences and savings and borrowing patterns of the household sector. The statistical data derived from the CFS can be used to measure socio-economic characteristics of the present Sri Lankan society and the effectiveness of policy initiatives launched by successive governments to improve the quality of life and living conditions. In addition, the concurrent availability of statistical information across provinces makes it possible to measure regional disparities in socio-economic conditions and the degree of penetration of government policies and plans, as well as access to goods and services provided and marketed by the private sector.

It is against this background that the Consumer Finances and Socio-Economic Survey Report 2003/04 was released by the Central Bank. The Central Bank invites decision makers in the both public and private sectors, both national and international, researchers, journalists, social workers, students and the general public to make use of this reliable and representative source of statistical information to better understand the country’s social and economic progress, as well as for deeper analysis of the findings, towards evidence based decision making in the future.

The CFS Report 2003/04 Part 1 and Part 2 are now available to the public. In addition, for the first time, summary reports of the key findings have been published in both Sinhala and Tamil, and are also currently available for sale.

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