Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Botswana can still do a lot to enhance statistical integrity

A way has to be found to restore public trust and integrity in Botswana’s public statistics.

To be fair professionalism of statistics Botswana is way above reproach.

The parastatals is run by highly trained men and women of immense professional pedigree.

But it is a lack of independence or should we say dependence on the state and the absolute sway the parent ministry wields that is of utmost concern to a big ecosystem that leaves a lot be desired.

Just recently Statistics Botswana announced that it has kickstarted what is probably its biggest project that only happens in ten year cycle.

National Census was supposed to happen last year.

But owing to the pandemic that did not happen.

A lot rides on the outcome of the census.

Yet the budget allocated is shockingly small.

Government should take national population census seriously.

The census will shortly be followed by Constituency delimitation.

A lot of decisions including development plans will be taken based on the outcome of the census.

Census determines broad notions of society.

The integrity of national statistics is in the end the embodiment of the nation’s brand reputation.

Manipulated statistics to achieve whatever goal in the end soils and discredits the nation because even the global partners rely on our statistics to give us credit and assess many things including development trajectory and projections.

Statistics must be collected and be compiled transparently if the various users are to develop trust.

Compared to peers, Botswana has done exceptionally well on statistics.

But we can still do better.

We need to give Statistics Botswana a bigger budget.

And after that we need to give them total independence from a political head, who as we know has vested interests on how statistics look.

At the moment a lot of data is absent.

That cannot be good enough.

Botswana government cannot fairly be accused of tampering with statistics.

But absence of data because Statistics Botswana has not been well resourced can easily be classified as a form of manipulation by those who hold the purse.

We need to change how Statistics Botswana operates.

That will in a big way also enhance the credibility and reputation of other public institutions.

For example a big institution like Bank of Botswana relies a lot on Statistics Botswana.

Populist governments the world over have never hesitated to manipulate statistics especially with the view to downplaying economic woes.

One piece of statistics they especially like to hide or manipulate is inflation.

The issue is not only about the integrity of statistics, but also just how informative they are.

Labour statistics are almost none-existent in Botswana, mainly because of how thin they often are and also how out of touch they are.

For a country besieged by unemployment, this inevitably leads people to suspect that authorities do not want the true extent of unemployment known.

How many people do we have on payroll today as compared to 2019 when Covid-19 struck?

Those are just some of the examples.

Governments always push back on issues of transparency and good governance.

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