‘Dearth of statistics hinders sound policies’


Bereng Mpaki

LESOTHO needs to urgently plug its statistical data gaps to be able to benchmark any developmental progress or lack thereof with other countries.

This was the main take away from a one-day workshop held earlier this week in Maseru meant to showcase statistical products in the National Statistics System (NSS) and to sensitise stakeholders on the use and benefits of administrative data.

Dubbed “Know Your National Statistical System”, the workshop was organised by the Ministry of Development Planning through the Bureau of Statistics (BOS) and attended by stakeholders who, either generate or consume statistical data. Among the attendees were different ministry representatives and other public authorities.

“It was worrisome to learn from the consultative process that most potential data users are not using data mainly because of lack of awareness of statistical products in the National Statistical System,” said Ministry of Development Planning Principal Secretary Khomoatsana Tau, while officially opening the workshop.

“And also, some ministries, departments and agencies that can potentially produce data from administrative records are not doing so because they do not know the statistical value of their records.”

In a responsive system, Mr Tau said the National Statistical System (NSS) has three important components, namely data producers, data users and data suppliers.

“Producers always have users’ needs in mind and keep ahead of the curve in meeting their needs in a responsive system,” he said.

“The data suppliers appreciate why they should provide data and are assured of their privacy and the confidentiality of the information they provide.”

BOS Director ‘Malehloa Molato told the Lesotho Times on the side-lines of the workshop that another issue affecting the data system was the dearth of resources necessary for collection of information.

“That is our major challenge, because if our resources were permitting, we could be able to carry out the surveys that we need, but unfortunately that is not the case and we are significantly getting assistance from donors on the little we have done,” she said.

“But our resources challenges do not only lie with financial resources, but also with technical skills. For example, in energy and environment statistics, we really need technical assistance in that area because that is too technical to carry out correctly.”

Jonga Nicholas, a Chief Technical Advisor for the Data for Sustainable Development Project of the Ministry of Development Planning, indicated that existing data gaps on relevant statistical data resulted in Lesotho being unable to benchmark any progress it is making in addressing its various priorities across different sectors.

Supported by the European Union and United Nations Development Programme, the Data for Sustainable Development Project is meant to assist the government of Lesotho in the collection, analysis and dissemination of development data.

It is also mandated with building institutional and technical capacities for the monitoring and evaluation of development programmes and which will result in effective public management systems.

According to Mr Nicholas, a data gap refers to the space between “where we are” which is the present state and “where we want to be” which is the target state.

“A data gap is forward looking; hence frameworks such as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Agenda 2063 and the Millennium Development Goals unfinished business are key in establishing data gaps (data availability status), not to mention expertise in statistical products and statistical production methods,” he said.

The data gap analysis he presented on were based on the SDGs indicators.

“The magnitude of data gaps relative to Lesotho’s capacity to track SDGs/Agenda 2063/ National Strategic Development Plan is basically defined in terms of a domesticated three tier system (i.e. data available; data partially available and data not available).

“Importantly, the exercise to establish the data availability status entailed holding rigorous consultative meetings with national SDG clusters that mirror the global ones, namely; i) People, ii) Planet, iii) Peace, iv) Prosperity and v) Partnership clusters. After the collation and analysis of stakeholder inputs, the data availability status is presented at both national and cluster level; with national results being an aggregate of cluster level inputs,” Mr Nicholas said.

He said of the 2063 SDGs indicators, Lesotho has data on only 33 percent.

“Therefore, if Lesotho were to track each of the 236 SDG indicators, the country would have had readily available data for tracking 33 percent of these indicators. However, 43 per cent of these indicators would have partial data while 20 per cent will not have data at all.

“In total, 32 SDG targets (24 percent of the targets) have readily available data for monitoring; while it is partial for 88 targets (58 percent) and not available at all for monitoring 16 Targets (13 percent).”

“Furthermore, the data gaps do vary across the clusters. The Partnership cluster has the least data gap, whilst Peace and Planet Clusters have the largest data gaps.”

The Peace Cluster is expected to report on crime statistics.

“However, cases of victimisation are under-reported, mainly due to limited coverage and the sensitivity of some cases. On the other hand, the planet cluster is still grappling with methodological challenges relative to producing some of the environmental statistics,” he said.

On how to address the data gaps, he said capacitation of relevant institutions was crucial, as well as usage of responsive statistical methods.

He further added there was need to modify the existing census and survey instruments in order to respond better to the demand for disaggregation by sex, age, location and various measures of vulnerability.

“There is need to engage new players so as to fully exploit opportunities arising from data revolution (What is popularly called “Big Data,” added Mr Nicholas.

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