Real geeks like me who like downloading data from national statistical websites will have come into work today all of a quiver. The UK Office for National Statistics launched its new website over the weekend promising “to make it easier for our users to find the content they are looking for“.
Apart from expected teething troubles of extremely slow running, the website shows a worrying lack of input from statisticians. For a start, selection of individual data seems to working only occasionally. Most alarmingly, when data is downloaded in Excel, the format conflates annual data, quarterly data and monthly data as below.
No one would ever want to look at data in this crazy format. Monthly data is even worse, mixing monthly quarterly and annual data in one column.
I have complained to the ONS. But in a spirit of public service, I have two ways to work around the problem.
A familiar consequence of crises is a flight to quality. This crisis is no exception, with gold soaring to nominal highs and the Swiss franc appreciating against pretty much every other currency on the planet.
However, owing to two decades’ worth of financial globalisation, a trend more pronounced during this crisis than any other was that this shift to safe-haven assets was coupled with a flight of capital across borders. As European Central Bank research, out on Wednesday, notes, investors were not only risk averse, but also fearful of uncertainty. And this so-called “uncertainty aversion” fed home bias.
The capital flight threatened financial stability and hindered economic growth. So what to do? For the ECB, there are two things: better analysis and more regulation. Read more
What was that infamous “Jo Moore” phrase again?
Yesterday certainly was “a good day to bury bad news”. As all eyes were focused on the News of the World phone hacking scandal, the government slipped-out an announcement that its preferred candidate for the new chair of the UK Statistical Authority withdrew her candidacy.
MPs were not convinced Dame Janet Finch, a paid up member of the non-executive great-and-the-good, she was sufficiently independent to be an effective watchdog over official statistics and ministerial spinning of data. The good news for all those interested in clear official data and wider access to information held by government is that the next candidate put forward by government must know they are there to serve the public not the government.
This creates the possibility of a new dawn for UK statistics. all areas including monetary policy will be more transparent and, even if pre-release of data to ministers is curtailed, the Bank of England is unlikely to find its job of controlling inflation compromised.
What was wrong with Ms Finch? She gave a shocker of an interview to MPs last week. Read more