Botswana’s statistical capacity declining


Botswana is hamstrung in implementing evidence-based policymaking as its statistical capacity not only trails well behind peers, but also experienced major deterioration over the past decade, says the World Bank.

In a Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) report released recently, the World Bank says one reason for the declining performance may be the transition of Statistics Botswana (SB), which became an independent agency in 2010.

“At the moment, Botswana lacks frequent social, labour, and industrial indicators. The main household survey has been conducted only twice over the last 13 years (2002-2003 and 2009-2010) and a labour force survey has only been conducted once in the last 10 years (2008; the next is planned for 2017). Moreover, the last household survey results were published only three years after their collection and, as of November 2014, the detailed results of the 2011 census have yet to be published,” reads the report.

Owing to such low frequency data collection and delays in dissemination, the World Bank says implementation of programmes designed to address employment, poverty and growth is impeded.

Highlighting the false economy of Statistics Botswana’s incapacity, the Open Data Barometer (ODB) global report released last year lumped Botswana into a cluster of  ‘capacity constrained’ countries that are facing challenges in establishing sustainable open data initiatives as a result of limited government or civil society capacity.

While there is a willingness to make government data available in Botswana, observers say in practice, availability is constrained by lack of resources, as Statistics Botswana is terribly under-resourced in relation to what is required. 

According to the World Bank, implementation of an ongoing multi-topic household survey as a core instrument for data collection is one important step that should be taken to address statistical shortcomings.

“But lack of data is also a function of a mindset in government that has perhaps paid too little attention to costs and outcomes.

For example, one of the reasons why the pace of privatisation and outsourcing is so slow is that no data exists to allow for a proper pricing of government service delivery. For example, how much does it cost to treat a patient for TB? To provide vocational training to an out-of-work adult? Of delivering electricity to a rural village? Without an understanding of such costs, it is impossible to judge the trade-offs of private supply, and the efficiency of public supply,” the World Bank asserts.

The report also says the serious weakness in statistical capacity is behind the monitoring, evaluation and accountability problem that Botswana is facing as absence of information undermines the potential to monitor the performance and impact of government policies and programmes.

Lack of monitoring and evaluation of projects and programmes across the board is seen as a serious gap that handicaps policy and programme planning in the future, as it makes it impossible for the government to understand whether or not they are meeting their objectives and to evaluate the reasons for it.

The SCD report intends to assess the priorities for Botswana to make rapid progress in achieving inclusive growth that is characterised by reduction of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

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