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04.09.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: Statistical Service, A Victim Of Expediency?


FOR OVER 45 years after Ghana's independence, the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) held sway. Through eight different governments, from Dr Kwame Nkrumah through Dr Rawlings' three different tenures, it did its job filing Ghana's statistical data without fail.

And none complained. Similarly, for the first two years (2000 to 2002) of President John Agyekum Kufour's New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration, no criticism was heard about the GSS' performance, even though it had equally suffered the neglect that afflicted the public sector and institutions generally.

Suddenly in March or April 2003 things took a dramatic turn; a credible government institution whose work provided the data for the calculation of all national indices, was rubbished by the government as being of medieval class and incapable of fulfilling its functions so its output should not be given credence by the public and our development partners. This was after the 90.4 percent overnight hike in petroleum prices towards the end of February that year.

When the GSS did its calculations and came up with the bitter truth that the yearly inflation rate, the usual measure for the rate of inflation in the Ghanaian economy, had more than doubled or so after the shock of the new petroleum prices, the government cried foul. Then Economic Development and Regional Integration Minister Paa Kwesi Ndoum urged all and sundry to ignore the GSS inflation figure because the service was “ill-equipped, under-resourced and lacks the capacity to produce credible statistical data” or words to that effect.

Ironically, the inflation rate that Dr Ndoum proffered as the correct one, was the monthly inflation figure calculated for the same period by the same GSS. If the GSS' yearly inflation rate was faulty because of its obsolete equipment, it lacked adequate manpower etc, how would its monthly rate be correct in spite of the same deficiencies? The Minister did not bother to provide an answer to this begging question.

It simply was not expedient for him to do so. More than two years later, President Kufour gleefully cites the same reason that his former minister gave for his inability to give the rate of unemployment in the country and for his controversial per capita income of $600.00 at his recent press conference.

Gye Nyame Concord may be uncharitable, but we find the inability of the government to put things right at the GSS, if indeed it has the alleged ills, baffling. Must it take as much as two years to replace obsolete equipment in so vital a state institution or find it qualified staff, even if expatriates? Surely money cannot be the problem with the country awash with HIPC funds which have released pressure on much expenditure heads? Or is it that there is nothing wrong at the GSS but it is politically expedient for the government to give it a bad name in order to be able to give the impression that it is winning in all areas of endeavour? An attempt by the government to eat its cake and have it? If indeed this is the real reason and the discrediting of the GSS is deliberate, then it is very unfortunate indeed and damaging to the long-term credibility of President Kufuor and his relevant sector ministers, especially after they may have left office.

It is a well known fact that most, if not all, the big and shady corporate deals that have laid giant US and European companies comatose had been carried out with deceitful statistics and anyone who shows a penchant for such bamboozling is regarded with suspicion everywhere. If elected officials or political appointees while in office could not face up to the reality of their situation and want to wriggle out of tight situations by repeated recourse to statistical abracadabra, what guarantee is there that they would behave differently in private life where their performance is not open to public scrutiny?

President Kufour's government made many promises on ascension to power, including a targeted tripling of Ghana's per capita income from about $370 in 2000 to $1,000.00 by the end of his second term. To aspire and fail is no crime. Not to aspire at all is the crime.

For any credibility to be attached to any figure he claims to have achieved in that direction, the calculation of it should be from a credible institution like the GSS. His mere say so would not wash. Hear the IMF and the World Bank saying they only know of $380.00 per capita income? So if the GSS he inherited is ill-equipped to do the job of certifying his performance, it is in his own interest to put the GSS in a position to do its work.

This is what the Gye Nyame Concord will urge him to do in his own enlightened self-interest. Luckily for him he still has enough time, if he really is not playing possum.