The release of the GDP data for the first quarter (Q1) of 2021 is tentatively scheduled to be during the first week of July – a delay of nearly three weeks from the usual schedule – the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) told The Sunday Morning Business.
According to regulations set in this regard, the GDP data for the first quarter (Q1) should ideally be released on or before 15 June of each year. Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, DCS Director General P.M.P. Anura Kumara, citing the pandemic as the main reason for the delay, said that a tentative date has been set for the release of the data, adding: “We faced difficulties getting the required data from various institutions because many of them were closed during the travel restrictions imposed during the current pandemic situation.”
DCS Additional Director General of Statistics K.M.D.S.D. Karunaratne confirmed that the results will be released during the first week of July, although a set date was not disclosed.
“Even though the date of release was supposed to be last Tuesday (15), we are still conducting the necessary surveys in order to gather the required data,” Karunaratne said, adding: “We need to then collate this data before the report is released.”
As per regulations, the quarterly GDP estimates are released within 75 days from the quarter’s end, where the first quarter results are released on or before 15 June, the second quarter results are released before 15 September, and so on, leading to the fourth quarter results usually being issued before 15 March the following year.
However, the results of the first three quarters of 2020 were all significantly delayed by the DCS, which cited the pandemic as the main reason. For instance, the first quarter GDP estimates were delayed by nearly two months, issued hours prior to the general election in August showing a 1.6% negative economic growth rate. The DCS continues to maintain that the delays were purely due to the pandemic and not political.
In mid-October last year, the DCS had said in a statement that the second quarter GDP data would be released on 15 December, together with the GDP data for the third quarter of 2020. Once again, the pandemic was cited as reason for the delays – specifically the seven-week-long curfew imposed through half of the second quarter, which resulted in various economic activities being conducted in an unusual fashion.
Last year, the DCS stated that the impact of the pandemic was felt severely “as the economy, which operates at the maximum capacity before the dawn of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, failed to function at peak level due to the lockdown conditions which commenced at the end of the first quarter”.