Inflation hit 8 percent in January, according to The National Institute of Statistics, which published its Consumer Price Index on April 10, ending a three-month suspension of the document.
The government suspended CPI statistics in January and claimed last month it needed to update its calculation methodology.
“We are sorry we had to hold the figure,” said Mr San Sy Than, director general of the National Institute of Statistics at news conference marking the release of the statistics. “This study takes time, and the number one principle is good quality,” he said. The figure released, however, only applies to Phnom Penh and a national inflation figure might be released after studying methodologies used in other Asean countries, he said.
He said February and March statistics will be released later.
The CPI, which determines the inflation rate, uses a formula that gives more influence or weight to items bought in higher proportion to other items. The new methodology is based on a 2006 consumer survey as opposed to a 2004 survey, which was used last year, he said. For example, gasoline now counts for 5 percent of the inflation calculation as opposed to 2.4 percent under the old methodology.
The CPI will also begin to “allow for local varieties of items” and actual property prices rather than rent prices, which can fluctuate rapidly. In January 2008 the inflation rate for the country jumped considerably to more than 18 percent, causing the government to suspend its publication until after the July national election.
CPP Minister of Planning Chhay Than admitted in February that the reason for suspending the index then was to paint a rosier picture ahead of the election.
The inflation rate released for January is considerably lower than when the World Bank calculated the national rate to be at 25.7 percent in May last year. Inflation has decreased steadily since last year and since the economy has overall slowed to a crawl.
SRP President Sam Rainsy expressed skepticism that political manipulation wasn’t in the works with the new CPI methodology.
“The government is manipulating the thermometer, in how it shows the temperature. They want the device to reflect whatever they want it to. This is typical of this leadership,” he said. “There is no free market,” he added. “There are just a series of promotional monopolies that are artificially keeping prices high.”