Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Living conditions survey seeks data for policy formulation

The Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) will publish the first national survey regarding the living conditions in Myanmar with the latest updates on poverty statistics and other details in each state and region next year.

Statistics expert Felix Schmieding explains the Living Conditions Survey to journalists during a field visit. Photo - Twitter/UNDP MyanmarStatistics expert Felix Schmieding explains the Living Conditions Survey to journalists during a field visit. Photo - Twitter/UNDP Myanmar

The CSO is under the Ministry of Planning and Finance.

“The Myanmar Living Conditions survey is the first national-level survey which will show the different rates of state and division income, poverty and living standards.

“The survey we conducted in 2009 and 2010 can illustrate only the poverty rate of residents, but this time, the survey will show not only poverty rates but also the living standards,” said Dr Wah Wah Maung, CSO director general.

The survey, which will be funded by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and World Bank, can provide much need national data for selected targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as well as estimate private consumption expenditure (PCE) for the System of National Accounts (SNA), she added.

The PCE measures price changes of consumer goods and services and is a primary measure of consumer spending on goods and services in the economy. It is part of the SNA, which serves as an internationally-agreed set of recommendations on how to compile measures of economic activity. According to information from the United Nations statistics division website, the national accounts are one of the building blocks of macroeconomic statistics forming a basis for economic analysis and policy formulation.

“The living conditions survey can reflect the voice of residents and we can know how Myanmar is in 2017 and we can make decisions on how to proceed with development.

“The ongoing Myanmar Living Conditions survey will provide more up-to-date information that can be used to examine living conditions across the country,” said Dr Wah Wah Maung.

The survey questions, lasting three hours in total, will be presented to each of the 13,824 households from 356 townships and divisions across the country, she explained.

“A two-stage stratified clustered sampling has been used for the Myanmar Living Conditions Survey and the framework is the 2014 Population and Housing Census,” she said.

Survey respondents from the townships for each state and division were chosen at random.  It will take one year to collect the data, as fieldwork began in December 2016 and will be completed in December 2017, said Felix Schmieding, statistics specialist at the UNDP’s democratic governance program.

“For the living conditions survey, selecting the township is important so we can see the different living standards of households in every state and division. We do not pick the township ourselves, but do so through a computer program.

“After the townships are selected, the computer program chooses, again, the households to be interviewed. We collect the data from those selected households and choose 12 households from each township,” he said.

He added that they collected data from 576 enumeration areas and conducted interviews with 6912 households for the first and second quarters within the last six months.

Daw Khin Sett Yee, CSO assistant director, said no stones were left unturned for reaching out to the households.

“We collected data from the townships the computer chose, even if those townships are far away and cannot be reached by car.

“In the first two quarters, we collected the data from some villages in Shan State which can only be reached by six hours of walking. Moreover, we also collected the data even in those townships within ‘black spaces’ [war areas] and clash zones in Kachin State.

“Last week, we started the work for the third quarter. We hope to complete the actual data collection by December so the survey can be published next year,” she said.  

“We explained to the respondents how their answers to our questions are important to get the true data,” she added.

“We have told them we are not from the tax department and we will never publish their personal data. Their right answer is important to get genuine, accurate data for our country,” said Daw Khin Sett Yee.

Efforts to stimulate growth and to reduce poverty have been constrained by a lack of data in many countries including Myanmar and the lack of data prevents analysts from identifying trends in how Myanmar can make progress toward its development goals, said Mr Schmieding.

“Surveys such as the Myanmar Living Conditions Survey ask questions on people’s income and consumption levels and include a lot of other critical information which can help tailor support to those who need it the most.

“Surveys are the most effective way to understand living standards in areas such as education, health, and infrastructure. Good price data are also essential for the measurement of poverty. We will just show the result of survey and it would be up to the government to plan new strategies for growth,” he added.