Funding problems cripple ZimStat

Tatira Zwinoira

THE Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) says it is in dire need of millions of dollars in financial support to fund its surveys and cover other operational costs, businessdigest has learnt.

Funding ZimStat is critical as it provides statistics which reflect the country’s economic performance and is also used to make decisions on the country’s state of affairs and produce reliable budgets for the nation.

ZimStat is a corporate body that was established through the Census and Statistics Act of 2007 and is the main source of official statistics in Zimbabwe.

The agency, which lacks both financial and personnel, says a single survey cost over a US$1 million and the money has not been available.

Zimbabwe is saddled with a huge forex backlog which the allocation system has so far failed to address.

Economists have over the years accused ZimStat of providing outdated and conflicting data with the latest being last month’s disputed inflation statistics which the agency said had risen by 2,49% to 59,39% year-on-year while some economists put it at 212% as at March 15 (Steve Hanke).

ZimStat measures the consumer price index based on the food and non-alcoholic beverages inflation, which is prone to transitory shocks in determining the official inflation rate.

ZimStat acting director-general Taizivei Mungate told businessdigest recently that although he did not have the exact numbers off-hand, some surveys required no less than US$1 million.

“I cannot give you figure off-hand. We would need to actually say this system needs this to do this and that system needs this to do that so we have budgets for each system so it would need time to come and have a holistic approach. But, what I can tell you is that some surveys cost over a million (US dollars).”

This comes as the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and ZimStat recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) wherein the former provides the latter with regular current account information for them to deliver a quarterly economic performance report.

“There is also demand for regional statistics that shows by province according to the planned devolution. Definitely there are going to be other demands at ZimStat to provide information at provincial or district level so what it means is you need to give the numbers in terms of stuff to ZimStat in order to be able to do this. Currently, we have overstrained staff to go further,” she said.

Mungate said there was a need to address the financial and human capital needs of ZimStat.

At the moment, the agency is depending on administrative data received from other institutions while survey data came with a certain periodicity although the agency is in control, Mungate said.

“We are in control because we just go to households, talk to households, come, and process. When it comes to institutional data, that is the administrative data.

“We have to wait for that institution to provide that information before we can process it. It depends on the system which we are talking about,” Mungate said.