By Isha S. Mansaray
‘For the first time since July 2016, Sierra Leone has recorded a single digit in the Consumer Price Index (for) March 2021,’ said Andrew Bob Johnny, the Deputy Statistician General of Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL) during a press briefing held in the agency’s conference room.
According to Mr. Johnny, the high inflation trend is due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, adding: ‘Even the most developed economies in the world go through inflation instability.’
Also speaking, the Statistician General, Prof. Osman Sankoh, said: ‘We are collecting data on 437 items which were identified in 2008 items from the basket, even though there are over 1,000 items in the country.’
A basket of items refers to a fixed set of consumer products and services whose price is evaluated on a regular basis, often monthly or annually. This basket is used to track inflation in a specific market or country. The goods in the basket are meant to be representative of the broader economy and are adjusted periodically to account for changes in consumer habits.
Prof. Sankoh said to add more items to the baskets for data collection would require a midterm census.
‘We used to do midterm census 10 years apart; and 10 years apart has it logistical issues, difference in time and that has lots of paper work’
He said SSL does not have the will to change the basket years, adding that ‘we should have put Okada, Sea Bird and the like to the basket, but the basket year can only be more appropriately changed after Living Standards Survey (SL Integrated) Household Survey.’
Prof. Sankoh also mentioned outdated items in the basket like cassettes, fax services, helicopter fees among others.
Speaking, Mwaluma Andrew Bryma Gegbe, the Director of National Accounts and Economic Statistics Division, gave a technical explanation of the ‘stories behind the numbers’.
‘In March 2021, the Consumer Price Index showed that the annual inflation stood at 8.95 per cent down by 1.92 percentage point from 10.87 per cent in February 2021. And the monthly inflation is 0.84 per cent down by 0.65 percentage point from 1.49 percent in February 2021.’
Mr Gegbe said the upward movers of items in the basket are; alcoholic beverages, tobacco and narcotics, which increased from 8.27 per cent in February to 9.98 per cent in March 2021, with an increase in inflation rate by 1.71 per cent. In transportation, there was an increase from 4.87 per cent 2021 to 6.21 per cent in March 2021 and an inflation rate increase by 1.34 per cent.
He further gave insight into the key downward movers of items in the basket, saying: ‘Food and non alcoholic beverages declined by 4.14 per cent from 19.59 in February 2021 to 15.45 per cent in March 2021. Communications; there is a decline by 7.66 per cent from 10.91 per cent in February 2021 to 3.25 per cent in March 2021.’
Mr Gegbe also summarised the inflation rates by region: ‘March indicates a downward trend in the year-on-year national inflation rate and is above the estimates of the Western and Eastern regions but below Southern and Northern regions’ estimates.’ He said food inflation rate went down by 4.14 percentage points, with non-food items down by 0.36.
The Director of National Accounts and Economic Statistics Division gave an in-depth explanation of basket items in Sierra Leone, disclosing that ‘prices are collected for 437 items at the prevailing retail market prices from six markets in Freetown and three markets each in Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Kono for weekly prices. Prices are collected from other outlets for monthly items whose prices are less likely to fluctuate weekly. The modified Laspeyres formula is used to compute indices and is classified according to the classification of individual consumption by purpose (COICOP) with 12 functions.’
Meanwhile, Statistics Sierra Leone’s mission is to coordinate, collect, compile, analyse and disseminate high quality and best-practice official statistics to assist informed decision-making and discussion within the government, business and the media, as well as the wider national and international community.