Make data bedrock of manifestos — Govt Statistician

As political parties lace up their boots to launch their manifestos ahead of this year’s general election, the Government Statistician, Professor Samuel Kobina Annim, has advised the parties to make data on all sectors of the economy the bedrock of their manifestos.

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“Data should be the bedrock of their manifestos because you cannot say I want to intervene in this area when you don't have the baseline,” he said, as he justified the relevance of data as a source of information to help address critical national problems.

Speaking in an exclusive interview in the Executive Studios of the Graphic Communications Group Ltd in Accra, as he shared insights into the importance of data in national development, he said the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) was working to empower the people to use data available to interrogate the various manifestos when they were launched.

“When we say statistics and when we say data, people look at the Ghana Statistical Service and the policymakers only but we really want to empower the civil service or the civil society organisations, the media and the general public to use data as a tool in asking questions. For instance, why are you putting this policy intervention in let's say health, rather than education?” 

Premise

Since 1992, it has become almost completely evident that manifestos of political parties are based less on available data but rather on mere rhetoric meant to excite the electorate to vote in a particular direction.

Analysts have in the past argued that most of the programmes and policies outlined in the manifestos of the leading political parties in particular, are not only coined to attract voters but lack substance because they do not address the teething problems on the ground.

As a result, most of these policies and programmes are either difficult to implement or do not make any meaningful impact as intended purely because they are not based on available data, and therefore not scientific.

Data for planning

Professor Annim said data was crucial for planning because it helped policymakers to target particular areas of concern.

“In the last six months for instance, we have been trying as much as possible, to provide the general public with a lot of information. As I said, last week, we did the multi-dimensional poverty index and it has 13 indicators.

In all these 13 indicators, we have computed them for all our 261 districts, and indeed, within each district, we've completed same for at least 20 localities. Prof. Annim said the GSS had data across 13 indicators for at least over 5,000 localities in the country.

“In addition to that, we've identified, based on the just launched vision 2057, the long term development perspective framework, and we've gone into it. We do see in the targets, there's a component on social development. We have identified another set of 15 indicators, completed these indices across all the 261 administrative districts and ranked them.

According to him, this is the information that the GSS has on its app, adding that “So if we are going to go into the manifestos, without paying attention to the numbers that are in the manifestos, vie the population base data and ask these very simple questions like - why are we saying that you're going to focus on this when the data on another issue shows that it's more concerning than this other issue.”

Prof. Annim said “this is what our colleague CSOs should be doing? This is what you guys the in media should be doing? And that is why we always want to build your capacity in these areas.

He said if the manifestos came out and we didn't interrogate them, from a statistical perspective, in terms of the numbers and all what we were already privy to, then we might have challenges going into the implementation.

“So it means that we as journalists, should also be very interested in the data and be able to interrogate the manifestos when they come out. I mean, if they come up with some policies in certain areas, you should be able to interrogate them to find out the truth.” He advised.

Prof. Annim said what the GSS intended to do was to deepen the relationship with CSOs, the media and the general public in the same way. He noted that the whole exercise was about transparency and accountability, “and it's your responsibility to use the facts for purposes of accountability, have a purpose for asking questions at the time that the policies are being developed and ask what the reasoning behind them is.’’

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