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10.08.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: Are We Groping in the Dark?

Ghanaian Chronicle

President John Agyekum Kufuor yesterday held his third in the series of interactions with the Media at the Castle, Osu.

An issue The Chronicle had expected the President to touch on was the status of the thorny issue of Dagbon and, also, reasons for the delay in the passage of the Disability Bill into law.

Considering his obvious delight at the inspirational feat of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, the President, announcing to Ghanaians that the Bill would be made law soonest, would have been a laudable response.

The President, however, touched on some very important issues of national concern.

One issue raised by him that should raise concern to everybody is the state of the Statistical Service. The gravity of the situation was best demonstrated by the President's assertion that a per capita income of US$600 he said we are enjoying currently was a figure confirmed by the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance!

We believe, as we had previously argued, that there is no meaningful planning we can embark upon as a nation, if we do not have our fingers on accurate data.

After all, it is only with data that we can know where we are, and subsequently measure as we trot along, to know whether we are progressing or retrogressing and at what pace.

There have been times that data churned out by different institutions showed variations and were at times disputed by some government officials. It is not very strange to have these figures, since there is always the opportunity to reconcile them.

Since the Statistical Service has a longer standing reputation here in the area of data gathering than the IMF and the World Bank, it sounds a little strange that we find them unreliable to provide us with some of our all important national statistic like a per capita income.

Considering the importance of data in any developmental venture, and knowing the state of the state statistical institution, we shall appeal to the government to take immediate steps to resource it, to enable it do for the country, what it was established to do.

In some countries, the only installations where one finds a visible presence of military personnel is their data centers. That underscores the importance attached to data.

Considering that we have a national identification project in the pipeline and also a national health insurance policy already being implemented, it is incumbent on us to prepare the Statistical Service to be the source of reliable national data.

In the area of data collection, analysis and interpretation, historical and cultural factors play very significant roles. It is therefore important that we retool our statistical agency, especially as we have in the past relied on their expertise to measure our performance in several areas.

A major constraint facing a lot of our state institutions is the poor conditions of service that make them unattractive to the very competent, who do not come cheap.

It is important that we identify our national priorities, which undoubtedly should include co-ordinating the activities of institutions like the Statistical Service, Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana, Legon, as well as the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) and other such institutions of international repute that engage in research.

It is only through an integrated data collection and processing that we can eventually, meaningfully measure our true state.

This is important because our experiences with the Bretton Woods Institutions have shown that their pronouncements cannot be too reliable at times.

They have many-a-time given our governments all the thumbs-up for being on track, to get them implement policies, only to turn round and blame them when the overall results turned sour!

Without reliable data on our health, education, unemployment and living standards, there can be no way to appreciate the dimension of the challenges at hand, let alone how much resources are needed to combat them.

Failure to appreciate this would leave us groping in the dark and we may end up moving, but perhaps in the opposite direction!