By Deborah Apetorgbor
If you subscribe to the notion that statistics play a significant role in the central dynamics of development indicators, then paying triune attention to accumulated numerical data is sine qua non.
Though subject to debate, it is logical to state that the Ghana’s relatively slow pace on the path to development is partly caused by poor statistical data keeping and management.
Professor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, the Minister for Planning and National Development, Kenya, sums up the core purpose of statistics in any country, advanced or developed in this quote:
“An essential component of any development planning is data. Without data, a country’s efforts to plan for future growth and welfare of its people cannot be grounded in reality and therefore may be severely flawed.”
Statistics underpin major decision making efforts and is the backbone to effective policy implementation across sectors, including efforts at eradicating poverty, macro-economic and sector management frameworks.
Good statistics also assist development partners by informing aid allocation decisions and monitoring the use of aid and development outcomes.
The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, March 2005, recognised the need for better statistics for more and effective aid.
So, statistics are needed to help drive the outcomes that policies are aimed at, not just to measure progress towards those outcomes.
The Ghana Statistical Service
The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), established in 1985, as part of the Ghana Public Service by an Act of Parliament, was designated to be the trusted provider of statistical services for better governance.
Its mission is to lead efficient production and management of quality official statistics based on international standards – using competent staff for evidence-based decision-making – in support of national development.
Generally, the GSS is responsible for the collection and analysis of statistical data. More specifically, it is tasked to advise Government and all stakeholders on all matters relating to statistical information; collecting, compiling, analysing, abstracting and publishing statistical information as well as conducting statistical surveys and censuses and organising a co-ordinated scheme of economic and social statistics.
This role, the GSS has so far played appreciably in the midst of economic, political and social adversities.
However, the Statistical Service, in its 32 years of existence, has in varied ways been faced with challenges that have inhibited its effective operations and legitimate mandate.
In his paper,”‘ Advocacy for Statistics and Statistical Governance”, Prof Ben Kiregyera of the Uganda Bureau of Statistics identified a vicious cycle of statistical development and use, which mirrors the statistical situation in Ghana and most parts of Africa and even beyond the Region.
He noted that there is under-funding of statistical production leading to the production of poor statistics. Consequently, there is low or lack of demand for statistics, which created low priority for statistics and the National Statistical Service.
In the end, the statistical authority finds it problematic meeting user requirements whereas there is little or lack of appreciation of statistics at the national and political level.
This cycle of negativity eventually results in poor policy design, uninformed decisions –on the part of government and stakeholders, – inability to monitor implementation and inability to evaluate performance.
The woes of statistics in the country, is a replica of the statistical systems in most parts of Africa, some even worse.
After careful consideration of the anomalies, the GSS consequently embarked on the five-year Ghana Statistics Development Plan (GSDP) also referred to as National Strategy for Development of Statistics (NSDS I), which spans 2009 to 2013.
The NSDS provides a framework for building and sustaining capacity to produce national statistics.
The NSDS I focused on institutional reforms, capacity enhancement of staff and infrastructure as well as data production and dissemination, and project management, monitoring and evaluation.
The strategy improved the work of the GSS and built better collaborations between the Service and the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The success of NSDS I resulted in NSDS II, which implementation is to begin in January and is to cover 2017 to 2021.
The goals of this second phase of the strategic development of statistics include improving the policy and institutional frameworks as well as developing sustainable funding arrangements and establish collaborations with national and international institutions.
It should be more than appropriate to follow in the steps of statisticians who have succeeded in transforming the statistical plight of their countries into success stories. Prof Ben Kiregyera outlines the following in his Advocacy for Statistics.
Though not exhaustive, it entails, not limited to, promoting wide use of statistics in society, and making the general case for the role of statistics in informing the process of government (supporting decentralisation, accountability and good governance).
Development of statistics also includes facilitating better decision-making and hence faster growth and more effective use of valuable resources for development and poverty reduction; as well as promoting use of statistics in macro-economic management and especially in ensuring economic stability and growth.
The GSS should also be demonstrating the use of statistical data for decision-making at sectoral level by presenting examples of how policy-makers can use available data from a range of sources to improve both policy and day-to-day management.
The Service should also consider emphasising the role of statistics in supporting private sector investment and in promoting the development of effective and efficient markets, as well as making a case for specific statistical activities.
For example, the Population and Housing Census, drawing attention to the range of uses census data could be put to and highlighting the costs and benefits of the census compared to other information sources.
Moreover, a special plea is hereby directed toward the incoming government to ensure mobilising national and international resources for statistics, and promoting coordinated investment in the development of the national statistical system.
This hopefully would ensure apt production, management, dissemination and use of statistical data in policy decisions and implementation as well as measurement of feedback. GNA