The Good News Times strikes again
Yawning Bread. August 2007
The Good News Times strikes again
My neck hurts. The article in the Straits Times made me do such a sudden double-take, I must have suffered whiplash. I had to read it three times over, and slowly, to grasp what exactly it was trying to report, for the opening sentence was, at first sight, quite misleading.
I wasn't the only one who thought so, apparently. In an online comment on the Straits Times site, someone with the monicker ashvint wrote, "This is a very strange analysis."
The opening of the news story said,
30 August 2007
Inflation gap narrows between bottom and top income groups
By Nicholas Fang
While prices for Singaporeans staged their biggest monthly increase in 12 years last month, people in the lowest income groups saw a far lower rate of inflation in the first six months of the year than in the same period last year.
If you're not careful, you'd get the sense that although inflation reached a peak, the poor suffered less -- and then your mind fills in the blank: than the rest. "Far lower rate of inflation" it says.
How convenient that is to burnish the credentials of the government for the welfare of the underprivileged, though already, you're disoriented because that sentence doesn't seem to address the same thing as the headline. The former speaks of a comparison across time, the latter hints at a comparison between subsets.
Even within the first sentence itself, you can trip up. The problem lies in the juxtaposition of unrelated elements. The first half of the sentence -- "While prices for Singaporeans staged their biggest monthly increase in 12 years last month" -- refers to the the increase in the Consumer Price Index during July 2007. It was 2.6 percent over the same month a year ago.
The second half of the sentence doesn't relate to July at all. It relates to a different time period: Jan-June. And neither the first nor second part of the sentence had any relation with the headline that mentions the "top income groups".
You continue reading.
Latest figures out yesterday show that the consumer price index (CPI) for the bottom 20 per cent of the population by income rose 1.1 per cent.
This compares with the 2.2 per cent rise for the January-to-June period last year.
Again, you see more good news. The bottom quintile (i.e. 20 percent block) suffered only half as much inflation during the first half of 2007 as they did a year ago.
And then you read,
The Department of Statistics (DOS) numbers also show that the gap between the inflation rates of this segment and the top 20 per cent of the population by income narrowed to 0.4 percentage point. This is the smallest difference seen in four years.
Prices for higher income households rose 0.7 per cent in January to June over the corresponding period last year.
Zero point seven? Wait... what's zero point seven? And then it slowly sinks in. That's the inflation rate suffered -- if "suffered" is the right word -- by the topmost quintile.
Is there a typographical error? You wonder. Fortunately, the Straits Times had a table alongside, which I reproduce here:
Four seconds later, you reel in shock. What is the most striking thing about the figures? That for three-and-a-half years the poorer households have suffered inflation far more than the average and the rich.
For the lowest quintile, the compounded price increase from Jan 2004 to June 2007 was 6.7%. On the other hand, for the highest quintile, compounded price increases amounted to 1.3% over the same period.
Readers may recall that the bottom 10% of households in the period 2000 - 2005 had virtually no income, and the next 10% saw household income fall 19.7%. See details in the article Income inequality widens markedly.
During that same 5-year period, the top decile (i.e. the top 10% block) saw their household income increase 14.8%, and the next richest decile gained 12.5%.Yet these are the ones who hardly saw inflation affect them.
You would think, wouldn't you, that a more appropriate headline and lead sentence would be something like "Bottom income groups suffer markedly more inflation than top ones"? Because really, that's what the table as a whole shows, doesn't it?
Instead the Good News Times squints into the 0.4 difference between the figures "1.1" and "0.7" on the last row of numbers in order to proclaim "Hail the benevolent king!"
© Yawning Bread
RH: MY ACQUAINTANCE, A FORMER POLICE INSPECTOR, AND HIS LAWYER FRIEND, EYEWITNESSED LEE KUAN YEW RIGGING THE 1997 CHENG SAN GRC ELECTION. READ MORE AT MY BLOG ENTITLED "I CAME, I SAW, I SOLVED IT" :
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