Cape Town – Credible statistics are necessary to ensure a better life for all South Africans, said Minister in the Presidency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Dlamini-Zuma tabled the budget vote for Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
Dlamini-Zuma said it is important to ensure the work of Stats SA remains relevant, and that policymakers and implementers use the data produced to inform decisions.
“Citizens must also know their country and understand the dynamic.” An informed citizenry is a reflection of a true democracy, Dlamini-Zuma said.
“Without good statistics the policy development, planning and decision-making process is a blind one. We cannot learn from our mistakes and the public cannot hold us accountable. Statistics allow us to understand and learn from the past.”
Dlamini-Zuma stressed that good statistics provide a road map for government to continue with programmes that work, and guidance to cut government expenditure on ineffective policies.
She added that the measures and facts should not be meaningless but must be able to relate to human life.
Poverty declined from 51% to 36.4% between 2006 and 2011, Dlamini-Zuma noted. However, it had risen to 40% in 2015.
The Gini coefficient, which measures inequality, is at 0.67, among the worst in the world. The wealth inequality index is at 09, which shows South Africa is one of the most skewed societies in the world.
“Credible statistics can therefore not be separated from the total emancipation of people,” said Dlamini-Zuma. Statistics should be a guide to ensure progress and a better life for humanity.
For this reason Stats SA will be using its R2.2bn budget to maintain basic statistics, institutionalising the integrated indicator framework, integrating and innovating and modernising the statistics value chain and ensuring transformation and organisational reform.
It is important to maintain basic statistics, Dlamini-Zuma explained. Stats SA produces more than 250 publications and reports per year covering various aspects of the economy, society and the environment.
The material is critical to inform different stakeholders on the state of the economy and to facilitate informed decision-making.
An integrated indicative framework will align policy agendas at global, continental and national levels, she explained.
Further, with the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution Stats SA will modernise the way it collects data from a paper-based approach to digital.
During 2018/19 there will be a roll-out of digital data collection from households to ensure data is collected faster, smarter and with cost-efficiency. This will improve the quality of data collection and reduce the time lag between data collection and the dissemination of results, said Dlamini-Zuma.
'Worrying' loss of skills at Stats SA
During the debate African National Congress MP Regina Lesoma, who represented the portfolio committee on public service and administration, performance monitoring and evaluation, said the committee is concerned about the exodus of 104 employees in 2017/18.
This left 170 vacancies at the organisation. The committee called for the organisation to prioritise technical skills to compensate for the job shortfall.
The committee also wants Stats SA to ensure the performance of individuals is not compromised. Lesoma flagged that the transition from manual to digital data processing should be done smoothly, as the release of statistics is important to influence government’s decision-making, she said.
Democratic Alliance MP Yusuf Cassim also raised concerns over the declining staff levels as it could compromise the quality of data, and suggested it could have consequences for the division of revenue amendment bill.
Last year Risenga Maluleke was appointed the new statistician general after Pali Lehohla’s term ended in October 2017.
During his term, Lehohla previously said the problem with data is that it is not necessarily used in planning processes by government.
"Unless we look at numbers as policymakers, we are far from resolving the problems of South Africa," he said at a briefing on the poverty trends report released last year.
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