Statistics South Africa Strategic Plan briefing

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Finance Standing Committee

17 May 2007
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Meeting report

FINANCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 May 200
STATISTICS SOUTH AFRICA STRATEGIC PLAN BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr N Nene (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Statistics SA work programme 2007/08

Audio Recording of the Meeting

SUMMARY
Stats SA presented its strategic overview and work programme for 2007/ 08 to the Committee. It informed the Committee that its strategic themes were to provide relevant information to meet user needs, to enhance the quality of their products and services, to develop and promote statistical coordination and partnerships and to build human capacity while at the same time enhancing effective governance and accountability. The key priorities outlined for 2007/ 08 were the Community Survey, Income and Expenditure Survey, Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Reweighted PPI and Pilot Poverty Survey. Future projects were also outlined.

Questions by Members addressed the implication of the postal surveys, the nature of jobs created, the need to define terms more carefully (which it was accepted was not the function of Stats SA), what was included in service delivery components of the Community Survey, and the need to rework the definition of a job. They expressed a need for a workshop on the underlying philosophy behind statistics and how they worked. Further questions related to the measurement and definition of inequality, the reasons why the Producer Price Index was to be re-weighted, the coordination between different departments, and the need for a time frame on the system and its implementation.

MINUTES
Statistics SA (Stats SA) Strategic Plan 2007 Briefing
Mr Pali Lehohla, Statistician- General, Stats SA, informed the Committee that President Mbeki, in his State of the Nation address, had asked what tangible work had been done to achieve the promises made to the electorate. It was the function of Stats SA to reliably measure the progress made by the State. Moreover, Minister Manuel’s central theme in his Budget speech was that all human life must have equal worth. Stats SA collected, collated and processed data to measure progress regarding inequalities in our society.

Mr Lehohla stated that the role of Stats SA was to provide accurate, relevant and reliable statistics to inform users on the dynamics in the economy and society through the application of internationally acclaimed practices and through use of transparent methods. The statistics provided by Stats SA gave information on economic growth, changes in prices (ie. Inflation), changes in employment and job growth, service delivery, South Africa’s demographic profile and population dynamics.

He informed the Committee that his Department had invested very heavily in acquiring and training the professionals in its employ. This was evidenced by the large number of Masters Degrees and Doctorates held by staff.

Key priorities for 2007/ 08 included the Community Survey, Income and Expenditure Survey and Quarterly Labour Force Survey. The Community Survey would give a better understanding of our communities by providing information related to service delivery at a municipal level and would visit 284 000 households. It would also help build technical and human capacity for Census 2011. The results of the survey would be released by the third quarter of 2007/ 08. The Income and Expenditure Survey would provide information on income and spending patterns in South Africa to update the basket of goods and services in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This survey was initiated in September 2005 and ended in September 2006; the results would be released in November 2007. The Quarterly Labour Force Survey measured the pulse of the labour market by comprehensively measuring the dynamics of the labour market. The Labour Force Survey (LFS) was stated to be the primary instrument used in measuring employment. The improvements in the Quarterly LFS included reviewed concepts and definitions of key indicators. The new LFS was to be launched in January 2008 with the first results available in August 2008. The Statistician General informed the Committee that in some countries the LFS was a more powerful economic tool than the CPI.

The Committee was also informed of the Poverty Survey, which aimed to develop a methodology to measure the extent of poverty and monitor progress in poverty reduction. The pilot was to be finalised in November 2007. The Producer Price Index (PPI), which indicates changes in producer prices over time, was to be re-weighted and released by February 2008.

Mr Lehohla informed the Committee that within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Stats SA had worked towards statistical capacity building and product harmonisation with its peers. He stated that all countries of the continent were poised to run a census, which was a major milestone. He mentioned the peacekeeping role of a census regarding countries coming out of conflict. He informed the Committee that South Africa would be hosting the International Statistical Institute (ISI) in 2009 and that they hoped for attendance of 10 000 delegates. Furthermore, he informed the Committee of Data Management and Information Delivery (DMID) as the foundation for building quality statistics. He stated that it was a tool that would provide the ability to manage, monitor and assess the quality of all elements of the statistical cycle.

Beyond 2007, the Statistician- General informed the Committee of the Poverty Survey in 2008, Tourism Survey in 2008, Statistical Training Institute in 2009, new building for Stats SA in 2009 and Census 2011.

Discussion
Mr K Moloto (ANC) asked what the implication of Stats SA conducting a postal survey for the Agricultural census in 2007 was. He enquired about its main objectives and shortcomings.

Dr Rashad Cassim (DDG: Economic Statistics, Stats SA) informed the Committee that there was a follow up process and as such that there was no need to be concerned about respondents not sending back the census.

Mr S Asiya (ANC) stated he was happy with the performance indicators given to the Committee. He enquired what the nature of the jobs created was and how sustainable they were. Moreover, he asked for a definition of poverty.

Ms Kefiloe Masiteng (DDG: Population and Social Statistics, Stats SA) informed the Committee that the major contributors to job creation in the country had been the trade sector and financial services. She attested to there having been an increase in managerial and technical jobs.

Mr Lehohla informed the Committee that it defining terms was not the function of Stats SA and that their role was rather the measurement of data. He stated that Minister Manuel had recently posed the question as to who determined and defined what gets measured.

Mr I Davidson (DA) enquired about what comprised the service delivery component of the Community Survey. He further enquired about the definition of a job. He also asked for a definition of poverty, as it had to be more comprehensive than simply surviving on less than a dollar a day.

Ms Masiteng stated that the Service delivery component on the Community Survey looked at access to Social Security, access to housing (including the type of house), access to education, access to health, access to grants and access to water, sanitation and electricity.

Mr Lehohla informed the Committee that the definition used for a job was if one had worked for an hour over seven days.

Ms K Masiteng informed the Committee that regarding the definition of a job the labour force survey (LFS) was being reworked. She however highlighted the difficulties of separating non- market and market activities as a job. Moreover, regarding the definition of poverty she confirmed that this was a contested term. She stated it was a multidimensional phenomenon that looked at one’s quality of life and level of deprivation. She said that there was a need for a robust definition as Stats SA could only measure, but could not set its own definitions. She indicated that it would be valuable to have poverty lines or thresholds.

Mr Y Bhamjee (ANC) congratulated Mr Lehohla for a very enlightening and interesting presentation. He congratulated the Department for having overcome the challenges of the past. He stated however, that there was a need for a workshop on the underlying philosophy behind statistics and how they worked. Moreover, he informed the Committee he would have liked to have seen measurable objectives and performance indicators so as to be better suited to perform his oversight role. Moreover, he enquired about the measurement and definition of inequality that characterised South African society. This he related to the notion of all human life having equal worth. He also asked what informed the decision to re-weight the PPI.

Mr Lehohla concurred with Mr Bhamjee on the need for further consultation.

Dr Cassim informed the Committee that the general view worldwide was that poverty was decreasing but that inequality was increasing. He informed the Committee that it was the Income and Expenditure Survey that looked at inequalities. Moreover, Stats SA had focused on and invested a lot of resources in measuring inequality. He attested to the fact that measuring the formal economy was already a huge challenge and that the informal or second economy was more so. The collection and collation of data on the informal economy required massive resource investment and had to be urgently addressed.

Mr Lehohla added that the two surveys run in 2000 and 2005 had given interesting characteristics of the second economy. The results of these were important in relation to intervention. He stated there was no movement between 2000 and 2005, notwithstanding the interventions by government and other stakeholders.

Dr Cassim informed the Committee that the reason for the re-weighting of the PPI was so as to better capture prices that went into production. He indicated that the PPI, as a lead indicator on the CPI, was critical. He said that Stats SA was supposed to have re-weighted the PPI more than 5 years ago, but that owing to its struggle getting good information on products it had postponed this exercise.

Ms Masiteng informed the Committee that when Stats SA measured poverty it also measured inequality. She however indicated that there was a need for a broader definition of inequality that went past the Gini Coefficient.

Mr Bhamjee enquired about the level of coordination between different departments in light of the fact that they each had different figures regarding the number of jobs created and businesses registered.

Dr Jairo Arrow (DDG: Q&I, Stats SA) informed the Committee that a core group of senior officials from Stats SA, the Revenue Service (SARS) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was looking into this matter.

The Chairperson stated that a time frame was required on the national statistical system and its implementation. He added that the Committee needed to follow this up. He again thanked Stats SA for presenting their work programme in an honest and frank manner and stated he was looking forward to updates on outstanding issues.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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