I have been thinking about writing a piece on this for quite some time but two events I read about in the news have spurred me on to write it without delay.
People need to realise there is a difference between a absolute number and a percentage. Without being able to put either the absolute, or percentage figure into context they are effectively meaningless.
Take example one. Absolute figure without percentage for context
The Irish agency "FAS" who are involved in training, reskilling and job creation in Ireland, were lambasted in the media for spending circa €600k on "travel and entertainment". Firstly, like it or not, that is the way business is done, building relationships with organisations is an expensive activity, business class flights, fancy restaurants the whole nine yards, as unattractive as that may be its the reality of the situation. SECONDLY, Fas's budget is €1billion. In percentage terms €600k is equal to... wait for it... 0.06% of the overall budget (odd they don't quote that figure in the media)... get over it.
Example 2. Percentage without the absolute for context
Another story that really grinded my gears was the "groundbreaking news" that the UK VAT rate will be reduced by a whopping 2%. The UK media, and seemingly government seem to think that by reducing VAT by 2% this will get people spending in the same reckless way which they used to pre-financial crisis. This is just stupid, and people are obviously not thinking of this in context.
"Plasma screen T.V. - previously £999, now starting from as low as £979"
"Bottle of Champagne - previously £60, now £58.80"