Statistics South Africa Budget Vote speech by the honourable Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

MP, Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, at the National Assembly, Cape Town, 09 May 2018, Vote 12, 2018

Honourable Speaker

Ministers and Deputy Ministers present here

Honourable Members of the House

Honourable Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee

Deputy Chairperson of the Statistics Council, Mr Ian Assam

Statistician-General, Mr Risenga Maluleke

Director-General of the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Ms Mpumi Mpofu

Commissioners from the NPC

Our Distinguished Guests in the Gallery

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

I am humbled to deliver this budget vote at a time when the country remembers and celebrates the lives of great heroes of our struggle for freedom.

The late Mama Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu was a great mother and leader of the nation who left a phenomenal legacy of values to all South Africans, both black and white. She was unwavering in her commitment and leadership to the liberation of our people. She epitomised the struggle of the poor, the disenfranchised and dedicated her life to the emancipation of women.

Secondly, I pay tribute to that courageous stalwart, uNomzamo Winifred Madikizela-Mandela. We will for ever remember her as a tireless fighter, who was persecuted, banished and yet through it all she devoted her life to the struggle for the rights of humanity. Her contribution will be forever etched into history and she remains our guiding star.

Thirdly, let me also take this opportunity to pay tribute to the contributions of uBaba Zola Skweyiya to the quest towards securing the dignity of our people, especially the most vulnerable. He served the democratic government in different portfolios, having also been the first Minister of Public Service in 1994.

And then there is the great Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first President of the democratic Republic of South Africa. Let me echo President Ramaphosa’s sentiment as expressed in the State of the Nation address when he said:

“We have dedicated this year to his memory and we will devote our every action, every effort, and every utterance to the realisation of his vision of a democratic, just and equitable society.”

It is important that as a nation we derive inspiration from their rich legacy as stalwarts of the liberation struggle and in their pursuit of a democratic and equal society. In honour of these stalwarts, let us uphold the principles, values and vision for a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

Honourable Speaker

I acknowledge the sterling work of my predecessor, the Honourable Jeff Radebe, in overseeing the work of Stats SA. I take the baton from his capable hands to ensure that this organisation retains its status as one of the leading statistic departments globally.

I wish to take this opportunity to recognise our recently appointed Statistician-General, Risenga Maluleke. As I do so, I wish to underline my personal belief that there is an inextricable relationship between building a better life for all South Africans and the urgent need for accurate and credible information.

It is thus imperative that we reflect seriously on these matters and find ways to support Statistics South Africa in order to ensure that its work remains relevant. But even more than that we need to talk about how we as policy makers and implementers utilise the data that they produce. It is very important to also remember that citizens must know the country they live in and understand the dynamics so that their decisions are well informed. An informed citizenry is the foundation of true democracy.

 

Honourable members

Why do statistics matter?

In simple terms, they are the evidence on which policies are built and decisions are made. Without good statistics, the policy development and decision-making process is blind: we cannot learn from our mistakes, and the public cannot hold us accountable.

Statistics help us to understand and learn from the past, make sense of the present, and make inferences about the future.

An evidence-based approach to decision making has gained momentum in recent years as it strives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of policy-making processes by focusing on ‘what works’.

An evidence-based approach can reduce government expenditure which may otherwise be directed into ineffective policies or programs which could be costly and time-consuming.

An evidence-based approach can produce an acceptable return on the financial investment that is allocated toward public programs by improving service delivery and outcomes for the country.

An evidence-based approach ensures that decisions are made in a way that is consistent with our democratic and political processes which are characterised by transparency and accountability.

An evidence-based approach highlights the current problem which forms the basis of long-term planning for better outcomes.

Honourable members

The world is bustling with an insatiable demand for data, statistics and information. Such demand is accompanied by those who are willing to give up their personal information in exchange for getting more, thus fuelling a forever emergence of those who are willing to peddle data sometimes to an extent of loss of human dignity. Dignity should never be lost in the pursuit of empirical evidence. Official statistics the world over are driven by the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and in Africa, by the African Charter on Statistics. Our nation prides itself on the Statistics Act that guarantees confidentiality at all times. The methods through which our national statistics are collected, processed and analysed remain independent from any undue influence.  Stats SA is listed among the best in the world when it comes to the progressive framework for statistic, good practice and transparency.

Our National Development Plan (NDP) still remains the beacon of hope for our country. It points to matters that need urgent attention at national and sub-national levels. Furthermore, it remains a link for our development as a nation with Africa and the world. At a continental level, Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want is our rallying point. The global post-2015 development, as encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Statistics become the walking stick with which we anchor ourselves as we wade through the uncharted seas of unknown territories. As we attend to national and continental challenges ─ and indeed those of the world – we should ensure that numbers do not become abstract to an extent that whatever they illuminate becomes meaningless. Measurement and facts should always relate to human life as well as whatever successes they record and the challenges they face. Empirical evidence continues to tell us that Black Africans and Coloureds face many challenges in our country. The NDP reminds us that we should track the lower bound poverty line (LBPL) in our fight against the triple scourge of unemployment, poverty and inequality. While poverty had declined between 2006 and 2011, from 51% to 36.4%, it has risen slightly to 40% in 2015. South Africa’s Gini coefficient, which is the most commonly used measurement of inequality, at 0.67 is amongst the worst in the world. Our wealth inequality index is 0.9, making us one of the most skewed societies in the world.

Women in general, and Black rural women in particular, are affected the most by poverty. It is encouraging that the multidimensional poverty index, which is an index of access to services and goods, continues to decline, largely as a result of the intervention that our government has made since 1994. The MPI has declined from about 18% in 2001 t0 7% in 2015. More than 17 million people are on grants and 20 000 schools have been declared fee-free.

Young people also continue to be bedevilled by unemployment the most. About 30% of young people aged 15-24 years are not even in employment, education and training. Last year the African Union had adopted as its running theme the matter of addressing the youth demographic dividend. A demographic dividend occurs when there is a potential for economic growth that is driven by positive shifts in the age distribution of the population. Any nation may benefit from this when it registers an increase in the proportion of the working age population while registering a decline in the dependency ratio. When a demographic dividend is realised, it propels economic growth. Our youth remain a motive force to benefit from economic development and ensure that the African continent can compete equally with other regions of the world in future. Credible statistics can therefore not be separated from the total emancipation of our people, for they should continue to guide us as we make progress or otherwise in the search for a better life by humankind.

Honourable members

Looking internally into Stats SA, the organisation will be focusing on the following key priorities to fulfil this mandate:

  • Maintaining basic statistics;
  • Institutionalising the integrated indicator framework;
  • Integrating, innovating and modernising the statistics value chain;
  • Transformation and organisational reform;
  • Planning for Census 2021; and
  • Driving legislative reform

 

Maintaining basis statistics: Basic statistics form the foundation of any national statistics system. Over the past 10 years, the organisation has invested a lot of time and effort in raising the quality and proficiency of economic and social statistics.

 

Stats SA produces more than 250 publications and reports each year, covering various aspects of the South African economy, society and the environment. This information is critical to informing government, businesses, investors, workers and the public on the state of the economy to facilitate informed decision making.

A key project that Stats SA will undertake relates to measuring the economic value of environmental resources, a joint project between Stats SA and the South National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The project forms part of an international pilot programme involving the United Nations, the European Union, Brazil, China, India and Mexico to develop appropriate valuation methods.

An integrated indicator framework has been developed that aligns policy agendas at global (SDGs), continental (Agenda 2063; SADC) and national level (NDP, MTSF, PGDPs, DGDPs & IDPs) as the basis of what needs to be measured in the national statistics system. These indicators will provide a clear basis for understanding the problem statement to be addressed in planning, as well as monitoring progress and evaluating results and will form the bedrock of the information contained in the central repository that will be housed in the DPME. Stats SA and DPME are working jointly on the initiative of the repository in a manner that will guarantee that DPME discharges of its policy mandate without corroding Stats SA’s independence.

 

The world is on the threshold of what has become known as the fourth industrial revolution, which demands that we think differently about the future and the way we have done things. To answer these demands, Stats SA is in the process of transforming the collection of data from a paper-based approach to digital collections. To ensure that quality is not compromised this is being phased-in over time. During 2018/19, Stats SA will be rolling out the digital data collection solution for all household surveys which will generate efficiency savings over the medium term. The digitisation of work methods will enable the organisation to deliver faster, smarter and more cost-effectively.

 

Planning for Census 2021: Conducting a population census is the biggest statistical survey any country and national statistics agency can undertake. Planning for South Africa’s next population census, which is scheduled for 2021, will commence in 2018/19. Census 2021 will be the first of its kind in South Africa to be conducted using an electronic data collection methodology - Computer Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI). This will improve the quality of data collected and reduce the time-lag between data collection and the dissemination of results.

 

In relation to Legislative reform: Stats SA will be delivering an Amended Statistics Act that will drive statistical reform in the country, with particular emphasis on statistical coordination, statistical geography, the data revolution, a state-wide statistical service and institutional arrangements. Coordination between organs of state is essential for consistency and efficiency in the statistical system.

 

The Statistics Act provides for the Statistician-General to participate in international statistical activities and build relations with international statistical players. South Africa continues to contribute to the continental integration agenda and to the improvement of the African Statistical System based on the African Charter on Statistics and the Strategy for Harmonisation of Statistics in Africa. In addition, Stats SA is in the forefront of initiatives aimed at shaping the future of statistics in response to the global post-2015 development agenda, the Africa Agenda 2063 and Data Revolution. Stats SA does this by providing statistical leadership and technical support.

Honourable members

The Public Finance Management Act, section 27, compels the Minister to annually table this budget and it is my honour to deliver Vote 12, which over the MTEF is R2.3 billion in 2018/19; and R 2.4 billion and R3.3 billion in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years respectively.

We recognise the importance of fully funding the statistical function in the country and engagements with National Treasury are continuous to ensure that challenges are addressed. I hereby request Parliament to support the budget vote of Statistics South Africa.

In conclusion, I could not find a more appropriate way to bring this budget vote speech to a conclusion, but to reflect on the wonderful quote by Ben Okri, who says:

"We have not yet arrived, but every point at which we stop requires a re-definition of our destination.”  

Statistics South Africa provides the numbers that should help policymakers to lead the country out of the valley of darkness. I want to sincerely express my gratitude to the Portfolio Committee chair and its dedicated members for their hard work and for being part of this phase of the history of this important organisation. My gratitude also goes to the South African Statistics Council, an independent body which has a responsibility to advise both the Minister and the Statistician-General.  I would also like to express my appreciation to the Statistician-General, Risenga Maluleke, and the entire Stats SA staff, for steering this ship and ensuring that it remains on course at all times.

 

Thank you