The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has charged governments in Africa to take statistics seriously and publish quality and reliable data regularly.
The Deputy Managing Director of the Fund, Mr Min Zhu, who made the call in Accra yesterday, emphasised how crucial quality data was to better understand the issues affecting the behaviour of markets, economic growth and development.
“We need good policies. When we need good policies, we need good data. This is the foundation for the policy maker,” Mr Zhu stated when he opened the IMF Conference on Enhanced Data for Better Macro-Policies in Africa.
The conference on enhanced data
The conference was organised by the Statistics Department of the IMF; it is the first time it has been held in Africa, where many economies need to improve on their data gathering, publishing and transparency.
Participants in the one-day conference included senior officials from central banks, ministries of finance, national statistics officers and academics.
Mr Zhu said quality and timely statistics were relevant to understanding underlying causes of economic volatilities (changes), such as the behaviour of interest rates and sluggish growth and added that it was important for governments in Africa to engage stakeholders, including the private sector, and publish the statistics.
“The work on statistics should not lag behind economic progress, as better statistics will help enhance economic growth.” He said if the public sector did not publish statistics, the private sector would produce their side of data and out-compete the government.
The IMF deputy chief mentioned some African countries such as Botswana which had made significant progress in data gathering and dissemination after it had signed on to the IMF’s General Data Dissemination System (GDDS) – a basic framework for a broader national statistical development strategy in member countries that acceded to it.
Ghana in sight
The Minister of Finance, Mr Seth Terkper, said under the second phase of the IMF programme, Enhance Data Dissemination Initiative (EDDI), Ghana had completed a private sector capital flow survey that could be used to help strengthen the country’s balance of payments and international investment position measurements.
“All of our efforts to strengthen our statistical framework contribute to enhancing our capacity to implement better policies. It also enhances our relationships with credit rating agencies, allowing us to improve our access to financing,” Mr Terkper stated.
The finance minister called on African economies to make the necessary investments to strengthen their statistical institutions and said measuring achievements under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would require the challenging exercise of measuring 300 underlying indicators.
“If we embrace the need for better data, this should also cover the aspirations that underlie the SDG agenda for the benefit of our countries and their citizens,” he stated.
The IMF has been pushing for the better statistics regime across the world, especially in developing economies.
Development partners such as the United Kingdom Department for International Development – a part sponsor of the enhanced data conference in Accra – have been instrumental in improving the adoption of the statistics framework across countries.