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Relevant data is an indispensable tool to the success of public economic policies such as the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).

The availability of trustworthy and timely statistical time series in the implementation and accurate assessment of such an ambitious economic strategy’s performance should never be under-estimated.

Indeed, without a viable data collection and dissemination system, Zim-Asset as an economic strategy is severely handicapped in its attempts to achieve its goal of overhauling the nation’s economy.

As it stands, the economic strategy is being implemented by different government ministries and agencies, with the Office of the President and Cabinet overseeing and co-ordinating the overall implementation.

In collaboration with Zimbabwe National Statistical Office (Zimstats), the various government ministries and agencies that have been identified in the implementation of Zim-Asset, are then responsible for the production and compilation of social and economic statistics vital for the implementation and evaluation of Zim-Asset.

Though in principle this arrangement is sound, in practice it is problematic.

Firstly, such a loose information system presents problems when it comes to co-ordination of Zim-Asset’s statistical activities. Policy-makers and implementers usually want information as quickly as possible. In that regard, the current statistical infrastructure presents difficulties as the data has to be collected by different ministries before it is made available to the Office of the President and Cabinet which co-ordinates the implementation of the economic blue-print.

Secondly, dragging in Zimstats, which is already overwhelmed due to capacity issues, compromises the quality of statistical data. Quality data is imperative for the success of Zim-Asset.

As an economic strategy, Zim-Asset seeks to address various issues facing Zimbabwe such as the unemployment crisis, public debt, depressed agricultural output, utilities upgrade, economic empowerment and reformed social programmes. An accurate insight into these issues, coupled with good decision-making, requires quality strategic information that Zimstats struggles to provide.

Thirdly, over the years, Zimstats has struggled with credibility issues, and for Zim-Asset to attract investment that it so desperately needs, its statistics must instil confidence in investors.

These problems can be overcome by the creation of a centralised statistical regime, which should be able to furnish Zim-Asset with data of the highest quality. Ideally, a ‘Zim-Asset Statistical Office,’ a government agency that exclusively focuses on the co-ordination of all data relevant to the needs of Zim-Asset, should have been seriously considered at the inauguration of the economic blue-print.

The ultimate beneficiary of Zim-Asset is not the policy-maker in the Ministry of Finance or Economic Planning, who uses statistics for his job nor is it the markets which use the data to predict areas that bring better returns for investors. Rather, it is the Zimbabwean citizen, that is, you and I, who ultimately reap the benefits or bear the brunt of good or bad policy-making based on statistics.

Thus the performance of Zim-Asset in the form of statistics which are understandable and useful needs to be accessible to the general public. Accurate statistics on Zim-Asset should provide citizens with an accurate picture of where we are and where we are going, and also offer citizens the opportunity to compare the economic policy with previous ones and indeed those of other countries.

The current statistical regime has not been able to systematically communicate the performance of Zim-Asset to the general public.

Simukai Tinhu is a researcher and political analyst based in Harare.

Source : The Herald