What Does the National Statistics Office Do? | Stats and Stories Episode 66 / by Stats Stories

66 Georgiou.jpg

Andreas V. Georgiou is an economist with specializations in Monetary Theory and Stabilization Policy and in International Trade and Finance. After working for the International Monetary Fund, he returned to Greece in 2010 to head the newly established Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT)-the successor of the National Statistical Service of Greece following the onset of the economic crisis in Greece. He was President of the Hellenic Statistical Authority for 5 years. He worked to re-organize and rebuild the institution, on a new basis of fully conforming to international and European statistical standards and practices, leading to the establishment of the credibility of Greek statistics. He is an elected Member of the International Statistical Institute . He has been a Visiting Associate Professor in Finance, Banking and Investment, at the Economics University Bratislava, Slovak Republic, and a Visiting Lecturer at Amherst College. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at Amherst College.

+ Full Transcript

John Bailer: I'd like to welcome you to today's Stats and Short Stories episode. Stats and Short Stories is a partnership between Miami University and the American Statistical association. I'm John Baylor. I'm chair of the department of statistics at Miami University and I'm joined by my colleagues Rosemary Pennington, professor in the department of media journalism and film and Richard Campbell chair of the department of media journalism and film. We are fortunate to be joined today by guest Andreas Georgiou, visiting lecturer at Amherst, Former President of ELSTAT, the Greek National Statistics Office and member of the American statistical association’s Committee on Professional ethics. Andreas, welcome.

Andreas Georgiou: Good morning.

Bailer: Good morning. I'd like to start with a very simple question. What does a national statistical office do, or National Statistics Office do and why is this important for a country?

Georgiou: The national statistics office produces official statistics for the country and official statistics allow the society to look at the economic developments, the social developments and also environmental developments and of course this is extremely important, both for policy making and for legislation as well as for the markets, for research and academia and in general, for technological progress. So official statistics are very important and the National Statistics Office is the fundamental place along with other bodies in Government that maybe producing such statistics. I should also say that these kinds of statistics that I already said, can be considered a public good in the economic sense of the word. They are good because they are non-rival and nonexclusive. That means that if you consume the official statistics somebody else can also consume them. The statistics are not getting diminished by consumption and they're nonexclusive in the sense that you cannot actually exclude others by definition, it is statistics that you make available to everyone.

Richard Campbell: Andreas, you talked about the common good and one of the things that journalists do is to try to make the kind of work you do available to the general public to kind of translate it. How good of a job do you think journalists do at explaining the job that that someone like you does?

Georgiou: Well that depends on the journalist.

(Collective laughter)

Campbell: It sure does.

Georgiou: There are those that like to do their homework and they like to delve into the matter, they read very thoroughly up on the statistics and the metadata and on the inventories that the statistical methods produced and they ask their questions and they do a very good job and others are doing much more superficial job.

Bailer: Can you give a particular example of the type of statistic that a National Statistical Office produces routinely and in particular how it's used?

Georgiou: Yes. For example, statistics showing national income, the gross domestic product. They are produced on an annual basis, on a quarterly basis and they're extremely important in order to know what...the income that’s being produced and the economy and how fast the economy is growing. Unemployment statistics - everybody wants to know the employment rate to know about the health of the Economy and also to determine what is the appropriate policy stance. If you are a policy maker you want to be able to assess this kind of data. Population statistics are extremely important for all kinds of planning including also for the conduct of the democratic process in the economy. They use, population statistics are used for the allocation of electoral seats, for example, in the parliaments or in the Congress and Senate, in the Congress, I'm sorry. And of course, you have statistics about education or health statistics that show the social conditions in the society. You have trade statistics. We're talking these days about large trade imbalances in order to determine whether one does have a problem and to do something about it you do need accurate data. So, these are some examples.

Bailer: Oh that's…that's very helpful. Thank you so much Andreas. Well it's been our pleasure to have Andreas Georgiou join us on Stats and Short Stories. Stats and Stories is a partnership between Miami University’s departments of statistics and media journalism and film and the American Statistical Association. Stay tuned and keep following us on Twitter or Apple Podcasts. If you'd like to share your thoughts on our program send your e-mail to statsandstories@miamioh.edu and be sure to listen for future episodes where we discuss the statistics behind the stories and the stories behind the statistics.

John: Hey Richard! Did you hear when you were on break that we were doing some work and we actually started a new contest!

Richard: John I heard a rumor about this. Tell me more!

Rosemary: Well we’re asking our listeners to contribute to the Better Bayes Competition. You can go to statsandstories.net/betterbayes and we’re asking you to explain Bayesian analysis in a way that’s accessible to you and I, Richard, or to the listener’s grandparents. By contributing a six word or less headline, and a thirty word or less lead, explaining the basics of what bayes is. When you fill out the entry form you can go on Twitter and talk all about it, using the #BettterBayes.

John: Yeah so a headline and a lead and if you can’t sell us with that Richard we’re not going to read it.

Richard: laughs Alright laughs