4. Potential scalability of a methodologically harmonized consumer price index in Africa

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1 4. Potential scalability of a methodologically harmonized consumer price index in Africa Rees Mpofu 1 and Themba Munalula 23 Abstract Building on the work of the COMESA and SADC Secretariats in implementing interim harmonized consumer price indices (HCPIs), this paper demonstrates the value of methodological harmonization in potentially achieving a continental HCPI. The paper argues that the methodological basis for harmonization strengthens existing CPIs, because they then conform to the International Labour Organization ( ILO) Consumer Price Index (CPI) Handbook s recommendations. As a consequence, the national HCPIs, benefit from the harmonization inherent in CPIs compiled according to ILO recommendations. The result of combining the HCPIs of COMESA and SADC is an HCPI encompassing 21 countries that represent about 39% of Africa. The scalability of these HCPIs holds promise for a continental index and is premised on methodological harmonization and participation in the International Comparison Program (ICP), which yields the aggregation weights. Key words: harmonized consumer price index, scalability, ICP Résumé S appuyant sur les travaux des secrétariats du COMESA et de la SADC dans la mise en œuvre des indices harmonisés de prix à la consommation (IHPC) provisoires, ce document démontre la valeur de l harmonisation méthodologique dans l obtention potentielle d un IHPC continentale. Le document fait valoir que la base méthodologique pour l harmonisation renforce les IPC existants, car ils se conforment alors aux recommandations du Manuel de l Indice des prix à la consommation (IPC) de l Organisation internationale du Travail (OIT). En conséquence, les IHPC nationaux bénéficient de l harmonisation inhérente à l IPC compilé selon les recommandations de l OIT. Le résultat de la combinaison des IHPC du COMESA et de la SADC est un IHPC englobant 21 pays qui représentent environ 39% de l Afrique. L évolution de ces IHPC est très prometteuse pour un indice continental et repose sur l harmonisation méthodologique et la participation au Programme de comparaison internationale (PCI), qui produit les pondérations pour l agrégation. 1 Price Statistician, COMESA Secretariat, 2 Senior Statistician, COMESA Secretariat, 3 Acknowledgements: We are grateful to John Astin and Caesar Cheelo for their insightful comments and we note that we are solely responsible for any errors there may be in this article. The African Statistical Journal, Volume 14, May

2 Rees Mpofu and Themba Munalula Mots clés : Indice harmonises de prix à la consommation, évolution, PCI 1. INTRODUCTION Regional and global analyses of economic phenomena have made crosscountry comparisons of economic indicators increasingly necessary. The consumer price index (CPI), which measures price inflation, is such an indicator. Harmonization of these indices has been dominated by European efforts to obtain a harmonized index of consumer prices (HICP) for the European Union (European Union, 2000). The EU HICP has become the de facto inflation index for the Euro Zone. Using a similar basket approach, the UEMOA countries in Africa have developed a regional CPI (Brilleau, 2001). Creation of monetary unions in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is an idea rooted in Heads of State declarations and embedded in both organization s Treaties (Article 21 and 22 of the SADC Treaty and the SADC Finance and Development Protocol for SADC; and Articles 72, 76 and 78 of the COMESA Treaty). This policy context has implications for a wide array of statistics (Belle, 2001). A regional HCPI is imperative for monitoring convergence criteria related to price stability (COMESA, 2011). Fenwick (2008) argues that development of a globally harmonized index would, first, respond to user need and demand (such as the subregional efforts highlighted above), and second, foster improvements in CPI methodologies. How such an index can be attained is the subject of this paper. This study builds on current work by the COMESA and SADC Secretariats to harmonize their consumer price indices to show the potential for extension to a continental index. This is particularly policy relevant in that it provides a framework for merging various efforts whose basis is methodological harmonization. The paper is organized as follows: a discussion of methodological issues related to implementation of an HCPI; a brief review of current work related to the COMESA and SADC HCPIs; a discussion of the potential for achieving greater aggregation of the index within the region and in Africa; stage 2 harmonization issues; and a conclusion. 106 Journal statistique africain, numéro 14, mai 2012

3 4. Potential scalability of a methodologically harmonized consumer price index in Africa 2. METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES Although the HCPI is derived from data used to compile national CPIs, specific products are excluded so that it is a purely inflation measure (rather than a cost-of-living index, a role that the CPI also plays). Development of the COMESA and SADC HCPIs followed the EU approach of methodologically based harmonization. A set of implementation Regulations were defined, which, in turn, specify the steps of HCPI methodology that are consistent with the ILO recommendations for measuring the CPI (ILO, 2004). Strengthening national CPIs is fundamental to creating a robust HCPI. Harmonization is premised on adoption of the ILO recommendations with regard to issues related to classification, formulae, etc. The pre-implementation assessment in both the COMESA and SADC regions examined CPI compilation practices. The resulting roadmaps for achieving an interim HCPI were based on a comparison of current CPI compilation practice and ILO recommendations, and where they diverged, provision of technical assistance to conform. Thus, a benefit of the work related to the HCPI has been strengthening the methodological soundness of national CPIs. For both COMESA and SADC, this is a two-stage process. The first stage, which is the current interim HCPIs of the respective regions, focuses on implementing 11 harmonization topics (based on implementation Regulations). The second stage, implementation of which is to start in 2013, adds 10 more harmonization topics. For COMESA, these steps were formulated as Implementation Regulations defining the scope of harmonization and are legally binding on Member states. The implementation Regulations that guide stage 1 harmonization pertain to: the framework; product coverage; formulae; domestic concept; outlets; weights and the treatment of missing items and the introduction of new products; seasonal goods; second-hand goods; and data transmission and publication standards. A brief description of each follows. The Framework Regulation defines the statistical requirements of the HCPI. It is a Laspeyres type index, calculated monthly, and the process of developing the indices follows well-defined timelines. The Product Coverage Regulation refers to the Classification of Individual Consumption according to Purpose (COICOP) and lists the initial product exclusions and some products permanently excluded from the HCPI. The Formula Regulation specifies that the Jevons (the geometric mean) is the default formula for The African Statistical Journal, Volume 14, May

4 Rees Mpofu and Themba Munalula averaging unweighted price data at an elementary level. The Domestic Concept Regulation defines the economic territory of the HCPI. It specifies that, unlike national CPIs, HCPIs include expenditures by foreign visitors. To construct a comparable HCPI for each member state, the Outlets Regulation attempts to establish a harmonized approach to the coverage and sampling of outlet types and individual outlets. The objective is to achieve a representative sample. The Regulation on Weights, Product Sample and Item Substitution aims at establishing a common approach to: Expenditure weights and product samples representative of the consumption patterns of the reference populations. Replacement of missing products. Inclusion of newly significant goods and services. The Seasonal Goods and Second-hand Goods Regulations attempt to ensure a common approach to the treatment of such goods. The Data Transmission and Publication Standards Regulation defines the standards for data transmission to COMESA and for the publication of country-specific and COMESA-wide HCPIs. The Product Coverage Regulation proposes common product coverage across countries. The harmonization process deliberately and consistently excludes certain products. This sets the HCPI apart from some national CPIs. Because inflation is a monetary phenomenon, the HCPI must be confined to actual monetary transactions. However, African economies are characterized by substantial agricultural activity at the household level, which results in considerable own-consumption of household produce. But consistent with the use of the HCPI as an inflation index, own-consumption is excluded because no cash exchanges hands. Similarly, for housing, imputed rents are excluded. Interest payments are also excluded because they are neither a service nor a good. Exclusion of certain goods and services and certain types of transactions from the HCPI is explained by the concept of Household Final Monetary Consumption Expenditure (HFMCE) (Hill, 1999). HFMCE consists of spending by private households, and these are the only expenditures that are taken into account for the construction of an inflation index. For in- 108 Journal statistique africain, numéro 14, mai 2012

5 4. Potential scalability of a methodologically harmonized consumer price index in Africa stance, in many countries, education and health services are subsidized. If a household initially pays 100% of the price of a health product or service, but is subsequently reimbursed by the government or any other source, the HCPI should include what the private household actually paid net of any assistance. For instance, if the household ultimately pays 80% of the total cost, only that component is taken into account, and the subsidized 20% is removed from HFMCE. Thus, a distinction is made between what is actually paid for and what is consumed, with the HCPI including only what is paid for. The HCPI also includes net expenditures on second-hand goods, primarily, clothing, footwear and motor vehicles. However, expenditures on secondhand goods in a particular country must be sizeable before they can be considered for inclusion in the HCPI. Given that the methodological harmonization of the COMESA and SADC HCPIs followed EU practices in implementing their HICP, differences between the European and the COMESA/SADC experiences require elaboration. These differences derive from the regions divergent economic structures, which affect the composition of HFMCE. African households allocate a higher percentage of their expenditures to food than do EU households. Some types of expenditure, for example, on second-hand clothing, are more common in Africa, and therefore, specific guidelines on how to treat them in, for instance, the COMESA HCPI as opposed to the EU s HICP, are needed. The nature of outlet types also illustrates differences in economic structures. The EU has more sophisticated and largely homogeneous outlet types. By contrast, many African and COMESA outlets are mobile vendors and informal markets. In recent decades, online shopping has grown phenomenally in the EU, but is still non-existent or nascent in Africa. Hence, such outlets are not used for African CPIs, although they are important in the EU. 3. CURRENT WORK ON COMESA AND SADC HCPIs As described earlier, harmonization in the COMESA and SADC regions is guided by a set of implementation Regulations underpinned by a Framework Regulation. The current COMESA and SADC interim HCPIs are based on first-stage regulations. The statistics for computing regional estimates come from the Member States and are based on initially computed national HCPIs using the full methodological scope of stage 1. The national HCPIs are aggregated using The African Statistical Journal, Volume 14, May

6 Rees Mpofu and Themba Munalula weights based on the volumes of individual consumption expenditure by households (ICEH). The volumes are derived from values in national currencies converted using purchasing power parities (PPPs) obtained from the International Comparison Program The COMESA and SADC HCPIs are aggregated according to the number of countries that participate in the two regions. Hence, each country s share determines its relative importance. Table 1 shows the aggregate indices derived from the stage 1 harmonization process. The EAC HCPI is also shown, because it was easily derived from the COMESA and SADC indices. Table 1: Harmonized consumer price index, COMESA, SADC and EAC, December 2010 to July 2011 Month-Year Region Dec-10 Jan-11 Feb-11 Mar-11 Apr-11 May-11 Jun-11 Jul-11 COMESA EAC SADC Source: COMESA, SADC and EAC member states consumer price aggregates, 2010 and The COMESA, SADC and EAC HCPIs are compared at the COICOP division level (Annex 1). The contributions of the food and non-alcoholic beverages group to the total HCPI basket of each Regional Economic Community (REC) are high, accounting for 53.1%, 40.3% and 31.9% for COMESA, EAC and SADC, respectively. The housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels group ranks second for COMESA and EAC, accounting for 10.3% and 15.7%, respectively, of the total basket. For SADC, the transport group (15.5%) is the second largest group. From December, 2010 to July, 2011, the all-items indices for COMESA, EAC and SADC rose by 8.7%, 11.0% and 5.3%, respectively. Over the same period, the food and non-alcoholic beverages group indices rose more quickly: 11.3%, 15.2%, and 6.4%, respectively. 4. POTENTIAL SCALABILITY Scalability refers to the ability to aggregate data. For the HCPI, scalability is not simply additive, but rather, weighted averaging over several countries 110 Journal statistique africain, numéro 14, mai 2012

7 4. Potential scalability of a methodologically harmonized consumer price index in Africa or regions. Key to the scalability of the HCPI is that much of the methodological harmonization has a priori been achieved. This can be illustrated by the use of the domestic or national concepts, the former of which considers expenditures of all residents in the economy, while the latter concerns only nationals of the economy. Without a harmonized approach before aggregation, the use of domestic concepts by one country and the use of national concepts by another would lead to double-counting. However, the joint technical consultations on methodology between COMESA and SADC ensured harmonization. The derivation of weights from the International Comparison Program s (ICP) PPP-adjusted volumes of ICEH shows that it is feasible to aggregate and achieve scalability of the HCPI for all ICPparticipating countries, provided that other minimum conditions are met, particularly, use of the same classification and a common reference period. SADC and COMESA Member States use the same COICOP classification and December 2010=100 as the index and the price reference period. Because countries may have conducted household budget surveys at different times, it is necessary to realign or price update the weights to a common price and index reference period so that the indices can be aggregated. From country HCPIs, it is possible to construct groupings such as a regional economic community like COMESA and SADC, and potentially, further aggregate until a continental HCPI is achieved (Figure 1). Figure 1: Scalability potential of HCPIs The African Statistical Journal, Volume 14, May

8 Rees Mpofu and Themba Munalula Scalability can be illustrated by combining SADC and COMESA HCPIs. 4 Based on the same principle of aggregation using ICEH weights, a combined SADC-COMESA-EAC HCPI (Tripartite HCPI) can be obtained. Aggregation of data from the 21 participating countries yields a Tripartite HCPI for the region, whose evolution in the first seven months of 2011 is shown in Figure 2, along with the individual HCPIs for COMESA, SADC and EAC. Between January and July 2011, the Tripartite HCPI rose 7.1 % overall, and its food and non-alcoholic beverages group (which accounts for 43.3% of the total Tripartite HCPI basket) registered an increase of 9.5%. (Annex 2 displays the HCPI indices by COICOP divisions.) Figure 3 shows the all-item indices of the four HCPIs. Figure 2: Regional month on month inflation 3,0 2,5 2,0 % 1,5 1,0 0,5 0,0 January 2011February 2011March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 COMESA EAC Region SADC Region Tripartite Source: COMESA, SADC and EAC member states consumer price aggregates, 2010 and SADC, COMESA and EAC have a total of 26 member countries. However, some overlapping membership exists, with 8 common members between SADC and COMESA, 4 common members between EAC and COMESA, and 1 common member between EAC and SADC. Five countries are not included in the aggregate HCPIs. 112 Journal statistique africain, numéro 14, mai 2012

9 4. Potential scalability of a methodologically harmonized consumer price index in Africa Figure 3: Regional harmonized indices 120,0 115,0 110,0 Units 105,0 100,0 95,0 90,0 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 COMESA EAC Region SADC Region Tripartite Source: COMESA, SADC and EAC member states consumer price aggregates, 2010 and STAGE 2 HARMONIZATION Given the amount of work needed to harmonize inflation measurement, it was decided to divide the process into at least two stages. 5 Stage 2 involves further harmonization. Some of the implementation Regulations expected from this stage are: the common treatment of tariff prices, discounts and reduced prices, data validation and editing, education, health, sampling, data collection procedures, quality adjustment, and derived statistics. Implementation of Stage 2 Regulations will mean greater harmonization, which is expected to be achieved in CONCLUSION This paper demonstrates the potential scalability of the COMESA and SADC harmonized consumer price indices. Combining the SADC, COMESA 5 Harmonization should be regarded as a continuous process because of the time it can take to resolve issues and implement decisions. Therefore, attainment of stage 2 does not mark the end of the process, but rather, an advance from the interim HCPIs that are currently being implemented. The African Statistical Journal, Volume 14, May

10 Rees Mpofu and Themba Munalula and EAC HCPIs shows that the methodology-based harmonization has the potential to yield larger grouping of HCPIs. This, of course, is contingent on the number of countries participating in the ICP that provide weights for aggregation. In the 2005 ICP round, 48 African countries participated. By following the recommendations of the ILO manual on consumer price indices for national CPIs, a foundation for compilation of HCPIs is achieved. If methodology-based based harmonization efforts are pursued, a continental index is a realistic possibility. REFERENCES Brilleau, A. (2001), The Methodology of the Harmonized Consumer Price Index in UEMOA Countries, INTER-STAT, no. 23, pp Mshiyeni, B. (2010), Regional Economic Integration in SADC: Progress, Prospects and Statistical Issues for Monetary Union, Proceedings of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB)/Irvin Fisher Committee Seminar, pp COMESA (2011), Report on the Study on Facilitating Multilateral Fiscal Surveillance in Monetary Union Context with a Focus on COMESA Region. Lusaka, Zambia: COMESA. European Union (2000). Report from the Commission to the Council on Harmonisation of Consumer Price Indices in the European Union. Fenwick, D. (2008), A Globally Harmonized Consumer Price Index: A Review of the Need for such an Index and the Extent to which It Is and Can Be Met and the Implications for the ILO Resolution on Consumer Price Indices, Proceedings of the 2008 World Congress on National Accounts and Economic Performance Measures for Nations. Washington DC. ILO, IMF, OECD, UNECE, Eurostat and the World Bank (2004), Consumer Price Index Manual: Theory and Practice. Geneva: International Labour Organization. Hill, P. (1999), Inflation, the Cost of Living and the Domain of a Consumer Price Index, Paper submitted to the Joint UN ECE/ILO Meeting on Consumer Price Indices. Geneva. 114 Journal statistique africain, numéro 14, mai 2012

11 4. Potential scalability of a methodologically harmonized consumer price index in Africa Annex COMESA region HCPIs, by classification of individual consumption according to purpose (COICOP) category and month, December 2010 to July 2011 COICOP Weights Dec-10 Jan-11 Feb-11 Mar-11 Apr-11 May-11 Jun-11 Jul-11 Food and non- alcoholic beverages Alcoholic beverages and tobacco Clothing and footwear Housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels Furnishings, household equipment and routine mantainance Health Transport Communication Recreation and culture Education Restaurants and hotels Miscellaneous goods and services All-item interim HCPI Source: COMESA member states HCPI weights, 2010 and The African Statistical Journal, Volume 14, May

12 Rees Mpofu and Themba Munalula EAC region HCPIs, by classification of individual consumption according to purpose (COICOP) category and month, December 2010 to July 2011 COICOP Weights Dec-10 Jan-11 Feb-11 Mar-11 Apr-11 May-11 Jun-11 Jul-11 Food and non-alcoholic beverages Alcoholic beverages and tobacco Clothing and footwear Housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels Furnishings, household equipment and routine mantainance Health Transport Communication Recreation and culture Education Restaurants and hotels oo Miscellaneous goods and services All-item interim HCPI Source: EAC member states HCPI weights, 2010 and Journal statistique africain, numéro 14, mai 2012

13 4. Potential scalability of a methodologically harmonized consumer price index in Africa SADC Region HCPIs, by classification of individual consumption according to purpose (COICOP) category and month, December 2010 to July 2011 COICOP Weights Dec-10 Jan-11 Feb-11 Mar-11 Apr-11 May-11 Jun-11 Jul-11 Food and non-alcoholic beverages Alcoholic beverages and tobacco Clothing and footwear Housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels Furnishings, household equipment and routine maintenance Health Transport Communication Recreation and Culture Education Restaurants and hotels Miscellaneous goods and services All-item interim HCPI Source: SADC member states HCPI weights, 2010 and The African Statistical Journal, Volume 14, May

14 Rees Mpofu and Themba Munalula Tripartite region HCPIs, by classification of individual consumption according to purpose (COICOP) category and month COICOP Weights Dec-10 Jan-11 Feb-11 Mar-11 Apr-11 May-11 Jun-11 Jul-11 Food and non-alcoholic beverages Alcoholic beverages and tobacco Clothing and footwear Housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels Furnishings, Household equipment and routine mantainance Health Transport Communication Recreation and culture Education Restaurants and hotels Miscellaneous goods and services All-item -nterim HCPI Source: Tripartite region member states HCPI weights, 2010 and Journal statistique africain, numéro 14, mai 2012

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