The nice thing about dealing with numbers, arithmetic or mathematics is that there is less subjectivity in these relative to most other disciplines. To solve a problem, while there may be a myriad of alternative calculations, results are typically definitive.
Polling statistics is however an altogether different type of quantification where random sample sizes represent larger numbers. Here, processes determine validity. Polling statistics deals with subsets, curves, clusters, tails, trends, modes, medians, averages, and weighted averages. It also deals with standard deviations. It is in those where the question of precision and credibility enter and determine whether a stated statistic is the truth itself, an accurate representation of the truth or merely a reflection of it.
While indeed, numbers can be fudged, falsified, and faked to substantiate matters unreal or outrightly false, at its core, substance is a matter of fact versus fiction. Historical facts yield neither to variable subjectivity nor spin. When subjected to intensive quantitative investigation, the real numbers appear and what might have been initially hypothecated are exposed for what they truly are.
Numbers should thus be subject to validation. This disputability nature of numbers is nothing new. But it is critical. Drastic counterpoints in our history in the last half century as well as in the last few weeks stand as steadfast witnesses to this criticality. Numbers as pylons of truth either support or serve as scourging pillars.
Where numbers are falsified or even just misinterpreted and yet form the bases for both policy and action, then we can see how a count can catalyze a calamitous anomaly. The wrong count, never mind that it might represent tens of millions or for that matter, three times tens of millions, can indeed enslave us to fiction.
To avoid the obvious allusions, allow us to present as an example our coronavirus statistics, the policies these influence, and the actions of government based on calculated counts.
To stand on firm ground, let us start from unassailable data. Let us start from a date. And on that specific date, let us cite verbatim the published public announcement of government officials responsible for COVID responses.
Last June 16, 2022, a print and online broadsheet reported the Philippine’s “nearly 80 percent vaccination rate, which is higher than the level in most developed nations.’’ Quoting an official, the same reported ‘’some 82 percent of the population have been given at least a dose of the vaccine while 77 percent are fully vaccinated.’’
A fully vaccinated individual is one who has completed vaccinations of at least more than one dose. If 82% of the population received only one dose and only 77% received two, then the 5% difference is wastage.
The data available for June 16 show that only 68.04% have been vaccinated and that the percentage of the population with completed vaccinations was only 63.67%. Note the 4.37% difference.
Further note aberrant data. “Some 80 percent’’ is nowhere near 68.04%. As to the reported ‘’fully vaccinated” 77 percent, that is also nowhere near 63.67%.
The following day, June 17, 2022, citing the National Task Force for COVID -19 that gathered reports from the National Vaccination Operations Center, an infinitely more trusted print and online broadsheet reported that ‘’the government was able to fully vaccinate 70,005,247 individuals or 77.78 percent of the target population.’’
Again, ‘’77.78%’’ is nowhere near 63.67% and is 4.22% short of the “82 percent’’ reported by the first broadsheet.
Because both June 16 and 17, 2022 published reports are dated and factchecked against their sources at that time, allow us to update to see how recent percentages remain illusory.
As of June 22, 2022, the number of fully vaccinated had risen from 70.01 million to 70.30 million and the percentage of the population fully vaccinated from 63.67% to 64.10%. Do the math. 64.10% is still nowhere in the vicinity of the “nearly 80 percent vaccination rate’’.
Are media and government lying or simply misrepresenting data? Note two things.
One, the vaccination target was downgraded last April when government missed its goals. Ceteris paribus, subsequent reports would tend to bloat.
Two, the vaccine count of exactly 69.8% last June 16, 2022, is a derived number. It is based on the assumed number of two doses administered from the total number of COVID vaccines. Therefore, the data is NOT the actual number of people vaccinated.
Add to the calculus bloating beta factors such as spoiled or expired doses, multiple boosters beyond the full two-doses, cold chain lag and lead-times, hyperbole, lies and PR spins. Without validating the math, published statistics cannot be the basis for crafting quarantine levels, debt and fiscal forecasting and the full re-opening of the economy.
(Dean dela Paz is a former investment banker and a managing director of a New Jersey-based power company operating in the Philippines. He is the chairman of the board of a renewable energy company and is a retired Business Policy, Finance and Mathematics professor.)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.