The personal, social and economic impact of COVID-19 is unlike anything experienced by the world in the past 75 years. Stats SA is aware of the need for timely data to understand these impacts, but is equally constrained by the restrictions put in place to manage the spread of the coronavirus. The task of scheduling collection, analysis and publication of data is made all the more difficult by uncertainty regarding when enterprises will resume operations and when our staff will be able to return to work.
This statement shares our plans for all the economic releases, based on a lifting of the lockdown by 4 May. It also outlines innovative activities undertaken by the organisation during lockdown.
Most publications due in April (but covering earlier reference periods) have been suspended. The extension of the lockdown to the end of April required a rethink about resuming the publication of statistics on the economy as well as the potential impact of these events on the quality of statistics. The impact on each series differs depending on the source of the information.
Two new initiatives were launched in recent weeks.
First, an online survey, based on the sample of the annual financial statistics, was administered with a due date of Friday 17 April . It includes qualitative questions on the impact of COVID-19 on the business. We have no means to engage with the respondents in order to ensure a high response rate as many of these businesses are closed, or working with limited staff who may not be those that the questionnaire was emailed to, or open but non-responsive. Stats SA will compile a note on the results of the survey in the following week, with the option of conducting the survey again.
Second, a selection of food and pharmaceutical items that form part of the CPI basket are being priced on a weekly basis. We aim to release a note on price changes for these products while the lockdown is still in operation.
During the lockdown period of 27 March – 30 April, staff from Economic Statistics cannot continue with data collection and analysis activities as usual as businesses and large parts of government are closed and only limited numbers of Stats SA staff are able to work remotely.
On the assumption of Stats SA becoming fully operational on Monday 4 May, the conditions we expect to face are as follows.
In the case of administrative surveys where government agencies provide us with raw data, Stats SA anticipates that these institutions will have to return to full functionality before the required data can be sent for processing and analysis.
Sample surveys are drawn from the statistical business register and the enterprises in the sample receive the questionnaire by email. The questionnaire is then either completed and returned to Stats SA, or staff make telephone calls to collect the information. The information is then captured and analysed before the releases are developed and published. It therefore requires that staff are able to access both the respondents to collect the information as well as our internal systems for processing. Currently most respondents are not open for business or are working with limited staff and therefore cannot provide the necessary information. It is therefore not possible to produce these releases as usual.
Produciton of the CPI relies on data collected by fieldworkers who visit retail outlets across the country and data that is sourced online.
All data for March were collected and all except for a small fraction were fully captured and edited. The March CPI should be published on 22 April.
Data are being collected from online sources during March and April for those products that are available for sale during the lockdown. The CPI for April will be released in a limited publication before the end of May. The CPI for May will also depend on online prices to ensure comparability with the April observations.
These statistics are based on the different collections described above, as well as information sourced from other agencies. It is therefore not possible to publish these without having access to sufficient basic statistics.
The GDP estimates for the March quarter were due on 2 June 2020. This will no longer be possible and we now plan to publish on 30 June. Depending on the quality of source data, revisions for the March quarter may be larger than usual when the June quarter is published in September.
Natural Capital Accounts have been developed in conjunction with the UNSD and EU, and will probably be published through a series of accounts between July and November 2020.
The publication of the TSA for 2018 remains scheduled for March 2021.
A revised publication schedule for economic statistics is provided in the final section of this statement.
If we resume normal duties on Monday 4 May, and the business community is fully operational, there are still risks associated with meeting the revised publication schedule. These include:
Stats SA is working on a multi-year project with the International Monetary Fund to harmonise seasonal adjustment techniques in the different monthly indicators with the estimates of National Accounts. This forms part of the benchmarking and long-term revision of National Accounts, due for September 2020 (see further below). The issues around outliers due to the lockdown or the long-terms effects of COVID-19 are the subject of methodological discussions in most statistical organisations. Stats SA is actively following these developments.
If the lockdown is extended further, the revised publication schedule will no longer be relevant.
Two other issues that we will engage users and the international community on are:
An enterprise is deemed to still be alive for 18 months after its last VAT payment. However, should there be significant closures of smaller businesses especially in industries that are not dominated by large and medium enterprises, the sample surveys will include these dormant businesses in the estimates. It is not possible to quantify this risk of future over-estimation of the level of economic activity at present. Stats SA is following developments within other national statistical offices on how this phenomenon is being dealt with.
First, the rescheduling of the forthcoming quarterly GDP will lead to overlapping activities related the regular GDP and activities related to the rebasing and benchmarking. Consequently, the timing for the publication of the benchmarked estimates will need to be rescheduled.
Second, the timing of introducing the benchmarked estimates should always be carefully considered. It is not good practice to make major data revisions during a period of abnormality as we have now. Stats SA depends on a range of monthly indicators to estimate the quarterly GDP. In the event that the information for the months of March through to June/July is volatile and does not represent a normal state of affairs, this may lead to questionable historic estimates. In addition, the latest quarterly GDP estimates based on short-term indicators may be revised substantially when comprehensive information from annual surveys is available later in the year. Annual surveys are more accurate than the high-frequency series given the larger sample size, the comprehensive nature of the questionnaire, and their use of financial statements rather than monthly key variables.
Therefore the option of postponing this comprehensive review of the GDP time-series will be considered for the reasons outlined above.
Users of economic statistics will be kept informed as the situation changes and as we are able to confirm dates for the publication of official statistics and other notes that are being developed.
Please note: in some cases data for two months are scheduled for publication in one release, for example manufacturing for March and April in one release on 11 June.
|Publication||Expected publication date|
|P4141 – Electricity generated and available for distribution, March 2020||20 April 2020 ( Monday )|
|P0141 – Consumer price index, March 2020||22 April 2020 (Wednesday)|
|P0142.7 – Export and import unit value indices, February 2020||30 April 2020 (Thursday)|
|P0043 – Statistics of liquidations and insolvencies, March 2020||11 May 2020 (Monday)|
|P3043 – Manufacturing: Utilisation of production capacity by large enterprises,
|12 May 2020 (Tuesday)|
|P2041 – Mining: Production and sales, February 2020||19 May 2020 (Tuesday)|
|P3041.2 – Manufacturing: Production and sales, February 2020||19 May 2020 (Tuesday)|
|P6242.1 – Retail trade sales, February 2020||20 May 2020 (Wednesday)|
|P5041.1 – Selected building statistics of the private sector as reported by local government institutions, February 2020||21 May 2020 (Thursday)|
|P6141.2 – Wholesale trade sales, February 2020||21 May 2020 (Thursday)|
|P6343.2 – Motor trade sales, February 2020||21 May 2020 (Thursday)|
|P0041 – Statistics of civil cases for debt, February 2020||21 May 2020 (Thursday)|
|P6410 – Tourist accommodation, February 2020||25 May 2020 (Monday)|
|P6420 – Food and beverages, February 2020||25 May 2020 (Monday)|
|P7162 – Land transport, February 2020||25 May 2020 (Monday)|
|P0043 – Statistics of liquidations and insolvencies, April 2020||25 May 2020 (Monday)|
|P0141 – Consumer price index, April 2020||27 May 2020 (Wednesday)|
|P0142.1 – Producer price index, March and April 2020||28 May 2020 (Thursday)|
|P0151.1 – Construction materials price indices, March and April 2020||28 May 2020 (Thursday)|
|P0142.7 – Export and import unit value indices, March 2020||28 May 2020 (Thursday)|
|P4141 – Electricity generated and available for distribution, April 2020||4 June 2020 (Thursday)|
|P2041 – Mining: Production and sales, March and April 2020||11 June 2020 (Thursday)|
|P3041.2 – Manufacturing: Production and sales, March and April 2020||11 June 2020 (Thursday)|
|P6242.1 – Retail trade sales, March and April 2020||17 June 2020 (Wednesday)|
|P5041.1 – Selected building statistics of the private sector as reported by local government institutions, March and April 2020||18 June 2020 (Thursday)|
|P6141.2 – Wholesale trade sales, March and April 2020||18 June 2020 (Thursday)|
|P6343.2 – Motor trade sales, March and April 2020||18 June 2020 (Thursday)|
|P0041 – Statistics of civil cases for debt, March and April 2020||18 June 2020 (Thursday)|
|P6410 – Tourist accommodation, March and April 2020||22 June 2020 (Monday)|
|P6420 – Food and beverages, March and April 2020||22 June 2020 (Monday)|
|P7162 – Land transport, March and April 2020||22 June 2020 (Monday)|
|P0043 – Statistics of liquidations and insolvencies, May 2020||22 June 2020 (Monday)|
|P0141 – Consumer price index, May 2020||24 June 2020 (Wednesday)|
|P5041.3 – Selected building statistics of the private sector as reported by local government institutions, 2019||24 June 2020 (Wednesday)|
|P9114 – Financial census of municipalities, 2019||24 June 2030 (Wednesday)|
|P0142.1 – Producer price index, May 2020||25 June 2020 (Thursday)|
|P0151.1 – Construction materials price indices, May 2020||25 June 2020 (Thursday)|
|P0142.7 – Export and import unit value indices, March 2020||25 June 2020 (Thursday)|
|P9119.3 – Financial statistics of national government, 2018/19||25 June 2030 (Thursday)|
|P0044 – Quarterly financial statistics (QFS), March 2020||30 June 2020 (Tuesday)|
|P9110 – Quarterly financial statistics of municipalities, March 2020||30 June 2020 (Tuesday)|
|P0441 – Gross domestic product (GDP), 1st quarter 2020||30 June 2020 (Tuesday)|