19 May 2017

South Africa: SA Ups Its Stats Collection Strategy

Pretoria — Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has set itself a goal of modernising the collection of statistics, while also fine tuning trade statistics.

Tabling the Budget Vote of Stat SA in Parliament - Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Jeff Radebe said trade statistics play a crucial role in planning the country's development.

"Trade statistics play a critical role in understanding a country's inclination to strengthen its economy by increasing exports. For our country, a preliminary review of our administrative data suggests that they are in need of repair.

"Statistics are not only crucial in assessing our current status, but they form the basis of any future planning. For without indicators, without comparative data of any kind, it is nearly impossible to set yourself any growth targets or even gauge your own progress. Evidence that is scientific is what we need," said the Minister on Thursday.

The Minister said Stats SA turned a new leaf in June 2016, when a seven decades-long practice of the production of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates in two separate institutions was ended.

Statistician General Pali Lehohla and Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago held a briefing where the Reserve Bank handed the responsibility of the compilation of the expenditure on GDP to Stats SA.

Minister Radebe said the housing of GDP under one roof has with greater clarity highlighted the defects, shedding light on prospective illicit financial flows.

"It sets us on the right path and taking the first step in implementing the recommendation of the Illicit Financial Flows Commission. Our major programme, therefore, is unravelling and addressing trade statistics.

"We shall focus on modernising statistical collection. We shall also remove the pain from the customer by easing the use of statistical evidence. This will be done by the implementation of technology and getting geography to work for South Africa.

"Through the production of spatial statistics, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation's new responsibility for the SPLUMA [Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act] will be greatly assisted," said Minister Radebe.

Furthermore, the Minister said the system will be reformed through a revamped and enabling statistical law.

Budget

Minister Radebe said of the current 2016/17 financial year budget of R2.1 billion, R229 million is for economic statistics and R128 million is for population and social statistics.

Methodology and research is allocated R67 million; statistical support and informatics has R258 million, and statistical collection and outreach is allocated R585 million.

Survey operations have been allocated R191 million, and administration -- which pays for office accommodation, transport, training and other central services and includes and the national statistics system coordination -- is allocated R 688 million.

Funding and independence

Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela, said Stats SA will need to be properly funded to discharge of its duties and responsibilities. The Deputy Minister also spoke of the importance of the statistical body.

"Independence is a very interesting issue, for it remains a lot stronger when it is not curtailed in whatever form. Resource constraints can indirectly compromise the integrity of any independent agency.

"For an agency like Stats SA, it would be detrimental when it cannot be fully funded," said the Deputy Minister.

Meanwhile, Stats SA will host the 28th International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) to be held in Cape Town in October.

Stats SA produces 246 products on the state of the South African economy and 67 products on the social state of South Africa.

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