When there is a problem, the logical thing is to properly understand what the problem is to know what caused it; what the effects of the problem are and what else is associated with the problem.
It is only after conducting such diagnosis that you can offer a prognosis.
But this audit should never be just for problematic issues alone. Even when things are going well, we need this analysis, in fact, it is especially when things are going well that we need a precise cause and effect analysis so that it is possible to know what is going well and build on the same. Hence the importance of statistics.
Statistics; the collection of organised data and its interpretation are very important for our economic growth at both the micro and macro levels.
At the firm level, the owner of the firm (and the manager) needs to determine in details the inputs and the outputs, the costs and the revenues etc.
The more current this information is, the more valid and useful it is. As the English say, ‘what gets measured gets done’. If a firm has its eyes on performance and keeps track of its figures, it will, almost always, do well.
The worst case scenario is that it will really know early when and why it is not doing well. This would still be good news.
At the macro (national) level it is a bit more complicated due to the fact that data is aggregated and theirs is a matrix of issues to consider. Nonetheless, the need for ‘real time’ data remains.
The question is now how regular this information can be availed and what the critical sectors are.
It is with this in mind that the move by National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda to (NISR) launch a Rwanda Statistical Yearbook (complete with an online downloadable version) should be lauded.
It is a good start and covers some of the key sectors like travel and tourism, banking, business enterprise and foreign trade among others, in addition to the ubiquitous population and GDP. Being a start, there are other areas that need to be considered.
Whereas it is prudent to compare ourselves with countries like ours that are doing slightly better than us (the South East Asians who were at the same stage in the 60’s as we presently are, are now world beaters) such as Malaysia, Singapore among others.
It is also prudent to go a notch higher and examine the top dogs like United States and Japan, for example, and analyse how they run their economies. There will always be something that we will learn. For one, such economies are obsessed with statistics.
The US monitors month by month employment figures. Each month, they have to know how many jobs the economy has created. The Japanese are offended greatly when this figure hits 5 percent.
They also follow figures on inflation at every sector. Employment, population (with attention to demographics) and inflation are inseparable when you want to gauge performance.
NISR should consider including employment figures from various sectors in its statistics. We need to know how many people are employed within a specified period of time (I would propose monthly, but I am aware of the resource constraints), in what sectors they are employed, what kinds of jobs they are in, in what age group they are, as well as how many are still unemployed.
Resource constraints are forever going to be with us, so we must find ways of working round them. NISR can build a reporting network with all sectors in order to get information in real time.
In today’s fast moving world, last year’s data might just end up being too historical and stuff for the archives.We must count so that we count!
Sam Kebongo is a skills and business advisory services consultant. He also teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College.