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Riley ‘disappointed’ by Minister’s criticisms

Statistician Cordell Riley yesterday expressed disappointment at Finance Minister Bob Richards' criticism of his jobs loss forecasts, saying his company has been making such predictions without fail for two decades.

“I was quite surprised and disappointed by what can only be described, in the Premier's words, as ‘schoolyard' antics by the Minister of Finance,” Mr Riley said in a statement.

“It is one thing not to agree with the information put forth, quite another to cast aspersions on one's abilities.

“Last February, in testing out a new business venture, a newsletter was sent to 40 select local and international business men and women (attached).

“You will note that the lead story was about jobs. In the story, I had indicated that ‘By the end of 2012, if current trends continue, jobs could have fallen a further 3.5 percent to 36,750, the lowest level since 1998'.

“You will note that jobs for 2012 were worst than predicted falling to 35,443.

“Likewise for the International Companies sector, the article stated that, ‘Projections are that jobs in the International Sector could fall below 4,000 by the end of 2012, giving rise to an employment growth capacity warning, a preparation warning, and a structural warning'.

“Jobs in this sector fell to 3,867, just as predicted.”

On Thursday, Mr Richards dismissed Mr Riley's prediction that job losses will come in around 2,400 for 2013.

He said the statistician had not done any proper analysis but had simply extrapolated the figures based on a trend.

“Statisticians don't run Governments, economists do,” Mr Richards said.

But asked what the employment figures will look like in a year, the Minister said he was unsure, as Government does not do a good job at collecting such data.

“I should point out that the purpose of statistical modelling is not always to be proven accurate — one of the main functions is to pick up the underlying trend,” Mr Riley responded.

“This we have done successfully for the past two decades — without fail. And the reason we use forecasting techniques is for the same reason the Minister complains about — a lack of up-to-date data.

“In North America, Europe and other places, organisations such as the Conference Board carry out a similar role and the business community usually welcomes such information.

“We shall continue to provide such information as a public service. And considering the feedback we have received this far, there are those in public who indeed welcome this information. I wish to point out to the Minister that statistical modelling techniques, if done correctly, are not a respecter of person or government.”

Cordell Riley

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Published August 24, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated August 24, 2013 at 2:25 am)

Riley ‘disappointed’ by Minister’s criticisms

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