The New Times (Kigali)

30 March 2009

Rwanda: Statistics a Mirror for Good Governance

Kigali — For a while planners, policy makers and politicians have struggled to come up with ways on how to predict, measure, monitor and evaluate successes of their activities and programmes.

This has been a dilemma up to 18th century when various governments in a bid to come up with developmental plans that would bring their respective populations out of poverty a strong need of methodological measures of programs' progress became inevitable.

This called for mathematics and economics researchers to devise other branches of computation methods linking both disciplines that would answer the question of the day and a branch of statistics was developed making it easy for researchers and planners to come up with statistical models and specific figures that represented a whole lot of information that later became a basis for adequate policy making and management.

It begun with Roman and Greece cities which tried to organize censuses and surveys that were mainly carried out to determine the number of their respective populations generally for planning purposes marking the beginning of statistical science.

Statistics became continuously useful in different domains to be considered as the milestone for an informed decision making in both private and public institutions.

Many countries, especially developing ones suffer from bad politics, poor governance, corruption, lack of accountability and poor planning. This leads to unnecessary spending and investment in 'white elephant' projects.

The government of Rwanda introduced many programs aimed at restoring its development agenda that had been eluded for a number of years.

This was done through democratisation of the administrative system reflected by decentralisation of the country's political arena which is a true indicator of good governance.

To ensure equitable and sustainable development through strategic planning, the government drew up a framework incorporating all its aspirations in its vision called 'Vision 2020' which acts as a road map to the country's future defining its priority areas and decentralization and democratization strategies that would restore in the long run reconciliation, empowerment and confidence of the local Rwandan population.

In order all this to be achieved there is a need for a strong statistical culture that would facilitate the actions of the county's policy makers.

As the motto of the newly formed statistics institute says if you don't count you don't count" drawing a strong emphasis on the importance of the use of statistics in policy formulation and prioritisation procedures of the country's resources.

In Rwanda, good governance revolves around a number of policy issues: consolidation of the national security, peace and reconciliation: democratization and decentralization process including participatory culture of the governed: promotion of transparency and accountability in public administration.

The process of good governance in Rwanda aims at empowering the population to become self reliant and break the dependency syndrome on the central government as well as promoting social and economic development activities that enhance modern practices.

This means that policy formulations are no longer construed by the central government but rather by the local administrative authorities, which calls for a strong statistical base that would facilitate carefully structured policies through the identification of priority areas.

This will lead to proper allocation of available resources according to the needs.

The government, having recognised the importance of statistics in all its endeavors to reconstruct the nation, has since established a statistical system facilitating it in decision making about new programs, monitor and evaluate the progress of the old ones.

This led to the establishment of the National Institute of Statistics (NIS), the country's first statistics institute. NIS is charged with regulation of statistics practices in Rwanda on issues related to methods in data collection, analysis and dissemination.

However there are still many challenges in the implementation of the system due to lack of qualified personnel at all administrative levels of the country which stunts the whole process of good governance in a decentralized setting which calls for periodic reporting on ongoing programs in order to facilitate transparency and accountability in the country.

Recognising the gap in the statistics human resources, the government set out to resolve this problem by introducing a new branch of statistics since 2004 at the National University of Rwanda to train and equip students in the area of statistics and the pioneers of this branch of knowledge graduated in 2008.

The nation's fundamentals of self reliance, democracy, transparence and accountability are key indicators of good governance. Expectations are high for the new statistics professionals as they hit the labour market.

It is hoped that a lot, regarding statistics practices in Rwanda, will be improved leading to evidence based planning, decision making and management of both public and private institutions.

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