Post 3 – Data Troubles

As I’ve mentioned, my data collection didn’t go to plan. I’ll try to give an overview in this post about the successes I had early on, as well as the failures I had trying to work with sparse, often poorly-organized or maintained data (that was also sometimes written in a foreign language). I’d originally planned to use monthly data about sector-level investment to track investment throughout the early phases of the revolution. I’d based the feasibility of getting my hands on this data on some of the other research I’d looked at about the topic.

Quite a bit of macro-level data exists about the Egyptian economy. This data is both collected by outside/international organizations (like the World Bank) and by domestic Egyptian institutions (like its Central Bank).  The World Bank, in connection with the Egyptian government, actually performed and released a very data-rich, firm-level overview of Egyptian firms in 2008. I’ve linked it in this post—besides being interesting and giving a good overview of the kinds of problems that (still!) plague the Egyptian economy, like corruption and heavy tax evasion, it also shows the kind of data I had in mind when planning and exploring possibilities for the project. (link: Unfortunately, 2008 seems to be the last time they released such a report. Though the World Bank offers a bunch of other data on Egypt, nothing they’ve published comes close to the richness of this specific data set (or what I need for the project).

The Central Bank of Egypt collects a large amount of data and is the go-to resource for anyone trying to study the Egyptian economy. This data includes, as I mentioned, a wealth of both macro-and-micro level data. I’ve been referring to this data a lot over the course of the project to get a better grasp of the Egyptian economy and to help explain the general economic situation of Egypt before, during, and after the revolution. Coupled with more in-depth research and analysis (like that performed by Professor Kent and his research partner), it’s been great for building a rich picture of the economy. For example, the Central Bank puts out data about cotton imports and exports, traffic through the Suez Canal, FDI, etc. Lots of good stuff. It also of course collects data about investments—and sorts the data both by the industry it’s invested in as well as the sector (sector here meaning private, public, etc—not which industry as mentioned earlier).

Unfortunately, the detail and applicability of the data varies—as does the frequency at which it’s gathered. While I’ve been able to locate data from the Central Bank about sector-level investment, this data is very limited. All the data I’ve been able to find—both through the Central Bank as well as other resources—only includes data at the year level. On one hand, the data is very useful for reasons mentioned above: it has helped me build a much better picture of the broad “ebbs and flows” of the economy all the way back to the early 90s. It’s not, however, at all the level of detail I need to make the project a success. Developments in Egypt didn’t just happen yearly; they happened month by month, and even day by day. The data I could find through the Central Bank was nowhere near detailed enough for what I needed.

Egypt also maintains a number of other institutions for data gathering and publication. Another source I tried was the Central Agency for Mobilization and Statistics. Again, like the Central Bank, there’s a wealth of data here. Also like the Central Bank, the data presented aren’t collected regularly enough to be useful for the project. Egypt also has its own Ministry of Investment. While they do collect their own data and have a wealth of analysis and reports on their site, much of which I’ve drawn from, they also don’t have month by month or quarter by quarter data regarding sector-level investment. The General Authority for Investment also has good data and reports, but again, not what I needed, unfortunately. So—I’ve had to adapt the project to the data that I have actually been able to find, which I’ll talk more about in the next entry.