Govt stats need closer inspection – Economist

FILE PICTURE: Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe. (Photo: GCIS)

FILE PICTURE: Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe. (Photo: GCIS)

It is essential to closely examine the figures and statistics in the Development Indicators 2014 Report presented by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, economist Professor Johann Kirsten said on Sunday.

“I think it’s very good that we have this set of indicators that can present us with a self-assessment. It’s good to look back into the mirror and say ‘how have we performed?’ At the same time the Indicators present us with good stories, some bad stories, but also some too good to be true stories,” Kirsten said at the release of the report in Pretoria.

“We need to interrogate those numbers to see whether they are really true, given that the anecdotal evidence sometimes speaks to different trends. It’s also good to have this set of data… because you cannot make policy when you don’t have evidence. Numbers need to be interrogated for their correctness, completeness, but we need to assess the quality of the services and the dimensions represented in the numbers here.”

Kirsten, head of the department of agricultural economics, extension, and rural development at the University of Pretoria, said there were several matters of concern in the Development Indicators 2014 Report. He was part of Radebe’s expert panel at the release of the report.

“From an economic point of view, there are concerns relating to the poverty levels that are still far too high, especially when you look at the rural provinces. Inequality is unacceptable. The poor economic growth is a worry because it will lead to low job opportunities. The rising statedebt is also a worry,” he said.

“In the economic context, we need to understand which of our policies constrain growth and which of our policies increase the cost of doing business. I don’t see an indicator on the cost of doing business. That is a fundamental thing that we need to have, to ensure that we know how many of the small enterprises can start their business, if that is not dropped down.”

He said government should have indicated whether its social support empowered South Africans to be less dependent on the state.

“Have we seen a graduation from social systems and social support to independent entrepreneurs or qualified entrepreneurs?” Kirsten asked.

The development indicators are numerical indications of changes and long-term trends in South Africa.

The indicators are used as criteria to measure progress and assist government to track, using quantitative measures, the effectiveness of government policies and interventions towards achieving the national goals in areas of development.

The data is sourced from various government administrative data sets, national official statistics, and research by local and international institutions.

The first development indicators were produced in 2007 as a mid-term document. The department thereafter produced the Indicators on an annual basis.

On Sunday, Radebe said employment in government’s expanded public works programme (EPWP) continued to grow steadily and reached six million at the end of 2012/13.

“In the year 2012/13, the EPWP created more than one million work opportunities, the majority in infrastructure. The community work programme has grown substantially from its modest roots in 2009/10 with more than three-fold growth in four years,” he said.

On the education front, Radebe said the report noted that the proportion of grade one pupils who had attended grade R reached more than 87 percent in 2014.

“The National Senior Certificate pass rate consistently improved from 2008 to 2013, but dipped slightly to 75.8 percent in 2014. The decrease coincided with the first class who wrote the new grade 12 curriculum and assessment policy statement (CAPS) examinations.”

“We need to remind ourselves that improved matric pass rates are not necessarily the only indication of improvements in the quality of the system. A more useful indicator would be the number of learners achieving passes with marks above 50 percent,” said Radebe.

On the health sector, Radebe said life expectancy in South Africa had improved due to multi-pronged strategies to combat disease and child mortality.

“South Africans are living longer; a milestone worthy of celebration. The life expectancy of South Africans has improved steadily over the past decade, with an overall net gain of 8.5 percent,” he said.

“The increase in life expectancy can be attributed to the constant improvement in implementation of comprehensive strategies to combat the quadruple burden of disease, inclusive of communicable diseases – primarily HIV and Aids and tuberculosis – and the reduction of infant and child mortality rates,” he said.

Life expectancy in South Africa had increased from 52.7 years in 2004 to 61.2 years in 2014.

“Infant mortality improved from 58 to 34 deaths per 1000 live births between 2002 and 2004. Over the same period, under five mortality decreased from 85 to 44 deaths per 1000 live births,” said Radebe.

“South Africa contributed to halting and reversing the spread of HIV – Millennium Development Goal Six. The number of HIV positive persons on anti-retroviral treatment has now reached 3.5 million,” he said.

Regarding crime, the report says South Africa’s corruption score improved in 2014.

“Combating the unacceptably high levels of crimes remains a priority. Between 2002 and 2013, the number of serious crimes reported was reduced from over 5000 to 3500 per 100,000 population,” said Radebe.


today in print