By Michael Duncan
Kenya is among African countries that will gain from a $9.3 million (Sh900 million) project by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that is meant to provide technical support in statistics.
The project is financed by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
It will be run across 44 countries in Africa and Middle East, based on the outcomes of the first phase of a similar project that the Washington-based institution has been conducting between 2010 and 2015.
“DFID has been a very reliable partner to the IMF in statistical capacity building, and shares our vision on improving macroeconomic statistics. The expected outcome of the project is that improved quality and timeliness of macroeconomic statistics will support more effective economic policies and poverty reduction strategies in Africa and Middle East,” said Louis Marc Ducharme, director of IMF’s statistics department.
Through partnerships with statistics departments of the selected countries, IMF seeks to help government agencies to produce first time quarterly national accounts, international investment position statistics and financial soundness indicators to rebase their national accounts, expand coverage in monetary statistics and increase frequency and accuracy in government statistics.
“Starting May, the project will provide technical assistance and training to national statistical systems on a broad range of macroeconomic statistics covering national accounts and prices, monetary and financial statistics, external sector statistics and data dissemination,” said IMF in a statement.
Through the project, IMF statistical experts will undertake technical missions to individual countries and lead regional workshops and seminars working with regional organisations to promote and exchange experiences.
The project comes at a time when the World Bank has raised questions on the timeliness of data dissemination by most African governments.
The Bretton Woods institution has often criticised the quality of data released by most African countries, sometimes terming it “insufficient and failing to reflect the actual status of the various economic sectors across the country”.
Locally, it is the mandate of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics to collect, analyse and disseminate data indicating the level of economic activity in the country that is relied upon by the government for planning purposes.
While releasing this year’s Economic Survey Report, an annual publication by KNBS, the national statistics agency, admitted to facing numerous challenges that have hindered effective data collection and dissemination.
They range from high staff turnover, which has also affected the agency’s technical staff, late submission of data by government departments relied upon by KNBS to collect information, to lack of adequate funds to finance its operations.
“We have noted concerns that have been raised with regard to the turnover of the staff that we have developed. We will see to it that it is addressed,” Ann Waiguru, the Planning and Devolution Cabinet Secretary, said while launching the Economic Survey 2015 last month.
Currently, the bureau has a total of 499 staff but said that it needed an additional 674 to effectively carry out its tasks. Accordingly, KNBS has proposed to increase its budget for human resource development from the current Sh599 million to Sh1.4 billion.
During the current financial year, KNBS was allocated Sh1.9 billion, but has petitioned The National Treasury to increase its budgetary allocation to Sh7.3 billion in the coming financial year.
KNBS proposes, in its strategic plan running between 2013 and 2017, a budget of Sh376 million, up from the current allocation of Sh251 million, to enhance the quality of data collected.
The Economic Survey 2015 was received with mixed reactions from industry chiefs who questioned the credibility of the data relied upon by KNBS to compile the report.
Among the sectors where questions were raised is Tourism where industry practitioners said that the sector recorded a “much worse” performance that what was captured in the report.
In the telecommunications sector, questions were also raised regarding information provided by the bureau on the rate of mobile penetration in the country, which seemed to contradict data from the Communication Authority of Kenya.^