Information vital to growth

Editorial, Normal

The National, Tuesday February 2nd, 2016

 INFORMATION, statistics and other useful data make planning for the future easier. 

For any successful country to navigate through the challenges and pitfalls of economic and social growth it is essential for the those in power to have at their disposal a set of reliable figures on which to refer to when choosing the course the nation should take for the benefit of all its citizens.

But these figures and trends should not just chart the changes that occur over a certain period of time but should be continually updated and made relevant for the times.

Take for example population growth, or the infant mortality rates or rates of rural to urban drift and to that end the numbers of the voting populations and what the demographics are for that population.

This information is crucial for nearly every government department in order for it to forecast change and deal with it in an efficient manner and one that will ensure long term growth or in the worst case scenario control and inhibit negative impacts of the said change.

To this end the National Planning and Monitoring Ministry is looking at becoming a reservoir of data that the state and the people can rely on for accurate, comprehensive and accessible information on a range of areas.

As with many state bodies the National Statistical Office (NSO) has had to carry out its duties with a minimum of funding and over the long term this approach has left the office unable to provide valuable information to the year. 

Invariably this has led to many state departments to either carry out their own information collecting or estimate the extent of growth rates and changes to statistical data.

That can pose problems for the government in terms of wastage and misallocation of funds or worse yet exacerbate an existing problem.  

Hopefully the days of guess work are over as the NSO has renewed its commitment to work with the ministry in such programmes as the National Identification Project.

Minister for Planning and Monitoring Charles Abel, during his visit to the Natiional Staistical Office last week, said whole idea of the project was to provide a “comprehensive cross-cutting source of information”.

“We very much need, as part of the reforms, to make sure that the other government agencies are collaborating in this exercise.”

Abel went on to name the Internal Revenue Commission, Immigration and the Central Bank  as participants and partners with the ministry.

Abel, although admitting the budgetary allocations for the NSO were not entirely adequate for its purposes, called for a more efficient system explaining that in spite of the challenges the role the NSO played was vital and that his ministry and indeed the state was committed to making the body fully functional.

“We want to capacitate and reform the system so it’s efficient. It is a large undertaking but we remain committed.”

The need for reliable information in this country has always been a problem. The last census was in 2011 but was mired in technical and logistical problems that one can barely accept the information gathered without thinking it is not a true indication of the population. Again funding and a lack of planning hindered and stymied the work of the NSO.

“We all know there have been challenges but the NID project must be seen in the context of improving the reporting and collecting of data for government purposes,” Abel said.

The introduction of the NID system is in large part a way to minimise the stress put on the state to carry out a nationwide survey every five or so years. The ID programme is aimed at cutting that down on that pressure  by providing the state agencies a flexible system at is practically self-sustaining and gives accurate information practically at the push of a button.

It may take, as Abel rightfully points out, a while to implement fully but it is worth pursuing.

Nearly every developed, and progressive, country has some form of accountability and organistaion with regards to the information it has on its citizens – this could be PNG’s own version.  

Bringing the country under one system will be important as around 80 percent of the land is made up rural communities and villages but they will feel compelled to register in order to participate and benefit from modern society.