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18.11.2004 Business & Finance

Give us data at short intervals - Nii Ashong

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Accra, Nov. 18, GNA - Government on Thursday challenged the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) to make a paradigm shift by providing statistical data on regular and at shorter intervals for effective application of development strategies.

Dr Samuel Nii Noi Ashong, Minister of State, Finance and Economic Planning, who made the call said, "...statistics on population dynamics should be generated, at least, annually for better tracking of population growth and its spatial distribution.

"While for most economic indicators including employment and unemployment, monthly or quarterly information would alert development planners to any potential downturns in the economic outcomes," he said. Speaking at a day's seminar to commemorate Africa Statistical Day in Accra, Dr Nii Ashong said accurate and reliable data was not enough, but the information should also be at short intervals to discern seasonal and cyclical patterns.

The Africa Day, which falls on November 18 every year, was set aside by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to draw attention to the state of statistical development on the Continent. Dr Nii Ashong said Ghana had subscribed to the General Data Dissemination System, which was providing a framework for the presentation of statistics based on international best practices.

Such a system, he said, allowed for public scrutiny and review of statistical data and noted that there was the need to strengthen the data dissemination programme that would make better use of Information Communication Technology for users.

"Statistical information on the economic, demographic and environmental fields is key for mutual understanding and trade among states and for setting clearly defined coherent and attainable development goals," Dr Nii Ashong said.

On The Millennium Development Goals, he said, the achievements of the 18 deliverable targets and 48 indicators would largely depend on the availability of statistical information for the monitoring, policy implementation and evaluation.

Dr Nii Ashong said the statistical systems in Africa were beset with generally lack of coordination among data producing agencies leading to proliferation of indicators with inconsistent concepts and definitions.

The way forward, he said, required an urgent need for more investment in the production of timely, reliable and relevant statistics.

Acknowledging the challenge, Dr Grace Bediako, The Government Statistician, said statistical services risk was becoming more irrelevant unless it moved with the times.

She said it must exploit information technology to its fullest, reduce the time lag in the data dissemination making it readily accessible and easy to manipulate.

Dr Bediako called for stronger collaboration among producers of statistics by building partnerships to undertake joint data collection activities.

The biggest challenge facing Statisticians, she said, was the need to balance the ever-expanding needs of users with a limited and dwindling resources.

"The demands placed on national statistical services are shifting - the needs of users are becoming more and more diversified with varied and constant changing issues of national and individual concern..." Dr Bediako said.

She said the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which served as the base for determining the rate of inflation was currently under review because of the changing market trends.

Dr Bediako said one unique thing to monitor the movements of prices would be to look at both the urban and rural markets that were vibrant to enable the GSS to make consistent estimate overtime.

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