Housing Ministry rejects Central Bureau of Statistics sales data

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Benny Dreyfuss: "The figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics do not reflect the true situation."

How many new homes were sold in Israel in March-May 2019? It depends on whom you ask. The Central Bureau of Statistics reported early this week that 5,300 homes were sold during this period, 14.9% fewer than in the preceding three months.

This figure drew demurrals from sources in the Ministry of Finance. According to figures from the chief accountant department in the Ministry of Finance, far more new homes were sold during this period. An extraordinary letter sent to the Central Bureau of Statistics by Ministry of Construction and Housing director general Benny Dreyfuss expresses dismay at these figures, which appear to have caught him by surprise.

"I was surprised to read your press release dated July 14, 2019 saying that only 5,310 new homes were sold in March-May 2019. According to figures from the Ministry of Construction and Housing, based on reports to the person responsible for the Sales (Dwellings) (Assurances of Homebuyers' Investments) Law that match data from the Ministry of Finance chief economist, sales of new homes totaled 9,600. It therefore follows that the figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics do not reflect the true situation," Dreyfuss wrote to Central Bureau of Statistics chief statistician Prof. Danny Pfeffermann. "A few days before your announcement, our ministry received a figure from the Central Bureau of Statistics microeconomics department similar to our figure in the ministry. It is therefore unclear why you chose to publish this figure instead of the data matching the data from the Ministry of Construction and Housing, the Ministry of Finance, and the Israel Tax Authority."

Dreyfuss added in his letter that the Central Bureau of Statistics had written that the figures were temporary and subject to later revision. He stated, "The data published should be as close as possible to the real data. The figures published by you are regarded as very important by the economy and the decision-makers in the government ministries. In this state of affairs, in which the Central Bureau of Statistics is aware that there can be and are significant differences between the temporary data and the data of the person responsible for the Sales (Dwellings) (Assurances of Homebuyers' Investments) Law and those of the Tax Authority, the right thing to do is either not to publish the figures until real data are obtained, or to note in your press release the differences between the data you compiled and the data received in the government on the basis of real transactions. In view of these differences, I propose setting up a forum consisting of the Ministry of Construction and Housing, the land taxation department in the Tax Authority, the Ministry of Finance chief economist, and the Central Bureau of Statistics in order to devise a plan for unifying publications about real estate."

Pfeffermann wasted no time in responding, writing in his answer, "I was surprised to read your letter, and even more to hear that it had been published in the media. We are very much in favor of cooperation between the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the Central Bureau of Statistics, just as we favor cooperation with all government ministries, but an essential condition for such cooperation is clarifying the details objectively and professionally." Pfeffermann gave figures in his letter that differed from those of the Ministry of Construction and Housing, explaining that some of the figures on which he relied came from the Ministry of Construction and Housing itself.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 18, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

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