Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lies damn lies and statistics

The title comes from a quote from Disraeli and popularized by Mark Twain (wikipedia). Don't be beguiled simply because someone trots out some numbers.

I was reminded of it from Seabee's post on a Gulf News report that a government official in Dubai say "DNRD [Dubai Naturalisation & Residency Dept] has cancelled the residency visas of about 44,000 people during February and issued more than 66,000 residency visas in the same month."

Seabee's response:
There are two blindingly obvious questions as far as I'm concerned.

One, were the 66,000 residency visas issued all for new arrivals or were some of them renewals? If it includes renewals, how many new visas were issued?

Two, what are the usual monthly cancellation/issuance figures for residence visas?
The questions about renewals is crucial because in the UAE residence visas must be renewed every three years.

There's also the question about cancellations. The policy had been to cancel anyone who had been out of the country more than 6 months. An anonymous commenter at UAE community blog says that has been increased to 3 years. If true that's another wrinkle to consider in interpreting numbers. The commenter says there's an economic logic to the change (i.e., it's not merely to game the numbers): it leaves the door open for those who have left to come back without a lot a paperwork. I presume that means come back to their old jobs.


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