OECD’s Premium Statistics

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The OECD-Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development is the Economic In-club. The economic place you want to be beyond WTO-World Trade Organization and the G8. And part of that reason is because the OECD plays a scorekeeping function, mesauring how its members are doing on a number of economic,political and social measures. Sort of a rich man’s UN.

And the statistics that the OECD produces for its members and the public at large largely become the measure of how well the countries are doing. So when I bought the 2007 OECD Factbook I was really expecting a wealth and cornucopia of statistics. Sort of the like the American Statistical Abstracts – well not exactly. The OECD is sparse, frugal, perhaps a premium blend. I will let readers decide as I feature

Cross Jurisdictional Comparisons

I worked in government for several years, and during policy making one could tell whether politicians were serious about a problem when they asked for cross jurisdictions comparisons. What were other provinces, states, or countries doing about this problem? Even more important, what did the statistics say on how well they were doing? We used to work up a an instant ROI measure – how much spent per capita by key jurisdictions – and how our government measured up against these targets. So yes the UN and OECD social and economic data were vital in doing these jurisdictional comparisons.

But even then getting 4 things out of the OECD data was difficult. First, up to date data was always a problem – results would often lag by 2-5 years from current results. Second, there quite often were holes in the data – some countries reporting and others might as well have been blanked out or redacted. A third problem, was the lack of historical data. OECD has always erred on the side of sparsity. One often got just the most recent figures and were left wondering exactly what this single snapshot told about the trends in the economic or social results. In that case we were sent scurrying for data from the UN, IMF or the national statistical sources which could be quite mixed in their effectiveness because the sources might differ in how they totaled and presented the data.

Finally, I never knew what would change from year to year. New series appearing, old series and data changed, or a new a new definition of how the data was to be computed. Now in many cases I could well agree with the OECD directions but would have appreciated having a continuance of the old data along with the new. But as one policy analyst remarked, “OECD considers itself the premium priced spread of statistics, so they get to call the tune”. It is in that light that I will be presenting some basic OECD data in chart format and adding commentary and data from other sources; then readers can decide if the OECD’s stats are worthy of their “premium” brand.

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