Posted by News Express | 15 July 2018 | 1,343 times
“Lack of statistics is to hide inconvenient facts” - Albert Bertilsson
Every day there are all manners of projections - about housing needs, unemployment numbers, etc, by the different levels of governments, most especially by the federal and state governments - which are captured in budget estimates but are never realised. The reason budgets fail is squarely due to the lack of statistics for planning, and not funding.
For instance, there is no denying the fact that infrastructure is crucial to Africa’s growth prospects. Neither can one ignore or deny the ever-growing need for infrastructure in Nigeria; but what we have are approximations and not hard facts that are critical for planning. It will be a great delight to hear of governments speaking authoritatively that only 30 per cent of the population has access to electricity and that only 10 per cent has access to safe water and sanitation. Only then, will budgets achieve their objectives. Despite an estimated shortfall of nearly $100 billion in infrastructure investment in Africa, lack of financing is not the biggest problem.
The logical question is how do you provide, without facts? And once governments start asking this question, as Governor Nasir el- Rufai, has consistently been asking, the result will be the establishment of statistical agencies responsible for managing all sets of data, and statistical activities’ agencies as the Kaduna Bureau of Statistics. The bureau has been tasked with: “Overall responsibility that relates to official statistics in Kaduna State, ranging from data collation, collection, analysis, interpretation, researches, and coordination of statistical activities, which will aid policy formulation, development planning and evaluation of accomplishment.”
Kaduna State, using numerical evidence has drawn very valid conclusions, which are captured in its Development Plan. For instance, the Kaduna State Development Plan 2016-2020 - which reflects the policy priorities and outlines the government aspirations of being the investment destination and food basket of Northern Nigeria - is unequivocally clear that economic development of the state will be anchored on agriculture; due to its capacity to provide employment to its teeming unemployed population, address food security and a source of raw materials for agro-processing industries. The Kaduna State strategy is based on statistics that about 80-85 per cent of its N15 billion GDP is accounted for by agriculture, which also accounts for 42.7 per cent of total employment of its people.
This is what has informed its latest effort - setting up of the Kaduna Produce Management Company (KADPMC), in conjunction with the private sector - in ensuring that Kaduna youths are not only attracted but retained in agriculture. The mandate of KADPMC is to provide support for farmers in a way that rewards output and encourages farmers to produce more. Every farming season, KADPMC is expected to announce the minimum guaranteed price it would offer farmers in Kaduna State for selected crops, such as maize, ginger, soya beans, sorghum, and tomatoes in the 2018 cropping season. And, when necessary, acting as a buyer of last resort! It will also be responsible for produce aggregation, storage and quality control services, which the old commodity and marketing boards used to provide for farmers and buyers.
The benefits of the Kaduna State initiative is that farming will be boosted and value chain energized, and raw materials will be readily available to serve the agro-cluster in the Green Agro-Allied Industrial Zone (GAAIZ) that has Olam’s poultry project and OCP Africa’s fertiliser operations as anchor tenants. This practical way of making farming attractive to young people, a major talking point in development circles, especially as the farming population are ageing and youths, especially young graduates, seem put off by the low returns from farming, are benefits of statistics. Farming must appear cool and profitable business. And Kaduna State is doing just that by focusing on the challenges that had discouraged them from taking to it, with the overall objective of ensuring sufficient return on investment and labour.
Should states rely on the National Bureau of Statistics figures? The answer is yes, if they want to generate quality statistics that are objective, timely, effective, and in line with its objectives. Besides, statistics facilitate the creation of new knowledge. For instance, the Budget Office had put the performance of the 2017 budget at over 40 per cent, a position the Senate disproved with its own facts. Without its own facts, it wouldn't have debunked the Budget Office claims. While the Federal Government was claiming 40 per cent, the Senate figure showed a budget performance of 15 per cent. While there is need for collaborative efforts, the fact remains that the Federal Government focus would always differ from that of states, because their motivations are different.
So when the Kaduna State Government Development Plan 2020 indicates that the state needs about N638.7 billion to address its infrastructural challenge - which doesn’t include maintenance costs - it is standing on solid grounds, a result of studies. That is unlike the whimsical statement by Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.
At a lecture he delivered in Harvard University, October last year, Ambode unveiled a plan to create at least 250,000 jobs per annum. This is fine on paper: but how? And this is because he lacks the vital figures. Undoubtedly, Lagos needs to create a 1 million job; but in what area: in knowledge or agriculture? These are the unanswered questions.
But, statistics is not the end of the matter, if the commitment and goal is enhanced service delivery, then the states must imbibe retreats. Because retreats provide leaders an opportunity to lead, to clarify the mission, to ask for and weigh ideas, step back and look at how the team is performing, and discuss changes to improve the necessary areas. And Kaduna State under el-Rufai has done well in engaging government officials in more collaborative and generative ways. Retreats focused on assessing the performance of the last one year and the next one year, became routine since he became governor. The outcome of leadership is service, and the results are glaring better organisational structure and solid foundation.
In 2015, the Kaduna State Executive Council declared a data revolution and has since invested heavily in establishing the state statistical system. And to fill the gaping hole in the state’s data, the Bureau has conducted a range of innovative new surveys in critical sectors - health, labour, living standards. Currently, it is working on attracting more local and foreign investment to the agricultural sector. The Re-Validation of Agricultural Investment Plan would help the government to provide the needed impetus in the area of infrastructure, land availability and financing for both small-holder and large-scale farming in the state. Gradually, the state has institutionalised the role of data in planning and monitoring of government policies.
The United Nations didn't do Kaduna State a favour when in 2017 it invited the state to present its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) report at the UN General Assembly, thus becoming the sub-national government in the world to launch its SDGs data and strategy development, which highlighted key policy actions.
And these are integrated into the 2016-2020 Kaduna State Development Plan. The objective is to improve the lives of residents of the state, by providing comprehensive targets for all aspects of development and coordinating the efforts of all actors. If all goes well, Kaduna hopes to achieve its potentials by 2030. The modest gains Kaduna State has recorded in its desire to achieve inclusive economic growth and socio-economic transformation that translates into substantial improvements in the quality of lives of citizens, through higher productivity and competitiveness are attributable to planning. And, that is planning with hard facts.
•Emmanuel Ado is a Kaduna-based journalist. He can be reached via email@example.com
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