More studies the way to go

Editorial

THE admission by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill earlier in the month that neither the government nor its relevant departments had a clear idea of the country’s population was an indictment on its information-gathering ability.
It is almost negligent of the state not be aware of such a crucial piece of information because, in truth, planners need that kind of data to do their jobs effectively. The last national census was in 2000 – 17 years ago – and one wonders how departments, such as the Electoral Commis-sion, which should be concerned with development and disbursement of funding and resources on a national scale, go about their work when there is a lack of reliable and up-to-date information.
Oro Governor Gary Juffa said it was a serious matter that needed to be addressed. Put simply, the state cannot af-ford to continue to overlook the collection of data on a range of areas within the country. Trying to plan better and forecast where the country is headed and which areas to allocate the money and to focus on development will be difficult. It would be like walking blindfolded.
Although state planners might be able to get away with estimates and base their planning around what they think is happening on the ground, accurate statistical infor-mation should always be preferred to guesstimates. More often than not this valuable and useful state function has been neglected and the responsibility has invariably been left to foreign bodies, who have a vested interest in Papua New Guinea, and are therefore compelled to do their own research, polls, surveys and data collection.
This should not be the case. They should be working in partnership with the state bodies to appropriate the in-formation required. To this end a study by the United Na-tions Children’s Fund (Unicef) recommended more studies on health, education, and agriculture to identify the im-pact of HIV/AIDS on children and families.
The report titled ‘Families and children affected by HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable children in PNG’ called for more studies to make government departments better understand the issue and focus on them when planning national policies.
It is a simple enough process. So why aren’t more studies being done?
To date, one would be hard pressed to find locally derived statistics on the number of people living with the disease and still in the workforce or have left gainful employment because of the debilitating effects of having HIV/AIDS.
Although the information is likely to be available at vari-ous caches such as health department records, employer records and other peripheral sources, someone still has to do the leg work to collate all that data and present in the way that can answer the question posed.
And that is just to do with pre-existing information but the importance of studies, the collection of raw data, polls gauging the public’s views and surveys also need to be factored in.
The danger of being unaware is that one is es-sentially making important decisions without the neces-sary and full set of figures from which to see clearly how one should proceed.
The other use of studies both state-funded and those done by reputable organisations, is that they reveal problems within society and shed light on the extent of those prob-lems.
This would also allow for the state to take the best steps to address and rectify the issues at hand before they become worse and unmanageable and a bigger burden to the state.
We know that a disease such as HIV/AIDS certainly has some kind of impact, not just as a health statistic but also effecting other areas in society.
People can only solve a problem or find ways to address it if they know more about it. That is why the collection of data is important, and why we should know how many people are living in this country.

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