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In Sierra Leone NGC Ridicules STATS-SL Inflation Figures

In Sierra Leone NGC Ridicules STATS-SL Inflation Figures

The National Grand Collation (NGC) Party press conference organized a couple of weeks ago on the economy vindicated this writer’s October 21st 2019 article regarding the abysmal state of the now dubbed Mallam O’s inflation figures. The NGC presented a true picture of how prices have increased between September and October 2019 for food item, non-food item and services all across the country; which showed an average increase of around 21 percent, which was far above the abysmal Mallam O’s figure of 15 percent for the same period.

The concerning party of this development is the resounding reject of figures that have been produced by Statistics Sierra Leone, which was established by the 2002 Parliamentary Statistics Act with the mandate of provide credible data for government and for all partners and the general public. I still remember in 2011 and 2012 high inflation years, when Hon. Dr. Kadie Sesay (SLPP) and Hon. Alpha Khan (APC) used to argue on radio and television using Statistics Sierra Leone inflation figures as basis for their pro/against argument around the economy. SSL was the sole source of such information then in those great days of SSL. But today, and as I warned in that October 21st article, partners no longer trust the products of SSL and as such have resulted to ‘doing it ourselves’ attitude by taking upon themselves to go to the market and collect price information for their own information and use. I am even reliably informed that even the Ministry of Finance which is providing billons of Leones of taxpayers monies quarterly to SSL to collect such below standard inflation are afraid of quoting such figures in their documents, rather IMF figures are the ones used for their policy guidance. Did you see any figures quoted in the Hon. Minister of Finance recent budget speech from Stats SL? Of course not! Nonetheless, Stats SL receives quarterly allocation from MoF to do such work. No wonder increasing number of MPs are joining the NGC to question the veracity of Mallam O’s inflation figures in the well of Parliament as they debate the budget speech. You do not even need to be a Statistician before one can sport the lopsided nature of the 12 functions inflation movements.

The NGC has clearly shown that rather than sinking with a national institution, which is sinking deep into politics and is unable to provide the services in their mandate, one should adopt a ‘do it yourself’ attitude to overcome such limitations. NGC is not alone in this; there are now many organizations that are involved in data collection to help them have a clear understanding of the economy and other government policy since they cannot get such reliable information from Statistics Sierra Leone. It’s really sad indeed.

The Poverty Figures

Additionally, it appears that the woes of SSL resulting from the wrongful dismissal of 244 staff (Ombudsman Report) are not limited to inflation figures, but have expanded to reached even programmes and activities supported by development partners such as the World Bank. The Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey (SLIHS) and poverty statistics have apparently been hit as well. After losing, for lack of capacity, the Toronto University Canada Mortality Project to Njala University and the UN Women project to a private Consultant, it appears that SLIHS will be the next project that will be moved to some other department or private consultant. Scanning the SLIHS and poverty report launched a few weeks ago in Freetown revealed interesting things that worth bring to the attention of the general public to guide them in their use or application of the figures and findings

It is a known fact that the World Bank Group is the Breton Wood Institution that responsible for validating poverty assessments, methodology, estimation, and so on, given its mandate to develop the world through grants and loans. However, this latest poverty presented on Sierra Leone can only be described in one word: POOR or in two words: very POOR.

Many experts interviewed by this writer have expressed shock and disbelief that the World Bank could present such apparent poor poverty statistics on Sierra Leone that is support to guide our national policy development for the next five years. The following are key issues that have been raised pointing out to flaws in the methodology and data of the SLIHS 2018, which rightfully or wrongly being forced down the throat of policy makers and the general public.

In the first place, the closeness of the absolute poverty and the food poverty figures speak the loudest to the potential poor nature of the set of poverty statistics presented in the SLIHS 2018 report.

Take a look at the comparison in the table below of different period and countries poverty estimates still under the supervision of the World Bank:

Sierra Leone

Ghana

Indicator 2011 2018 2005/06 2012/13
Absolute Poverty

52.9

56.6 31.9

24.2

Food Poverty

47.7

54.4 25.5

18.4

Diff

5.2

2.2 6.4

5.8

Source: SLIHS 2011 and 2018 Reports; Ghana Poverty and Inequality Report,2016

From the table you can see that it is only in SLIHS 2018 that the food poverty index is the closest to the absolute poverty index. What this means is that it appears that poverty in Sierra Leone is all about food or the lack of food; and that once you have food to derive 2700 calories from, one is not poor. We know that this is not the case in real life as non-food poverty is as well significant and not close to zero as implied in the figures. Lack of basic services (heath, education, transport, housing, clothing, water and sanitation, etc)in the communities is still a stack reality for the vast majority of our people across the country. Even in Ghana which has seen lower levels of poverty, food poverty was still far below absolute poverty figures. So World Bank/Stats SL must tell us why the unique situation in Sierra Leone and in 2018.

I take note that the Word Bank said in the report that we should not compare 2011 and 2018 poverty figures due to methodological difference; but in the report it is stated that poverty had decline by 5.6 percent from 2011, was this not a comparison to the 2011 figures? So why warn users? This is indeed a catch 22 situation of the Bank wanting to stay technical but also having to satisfy government

Also, the report states the data used in the report was obtained from the Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey (SLIHS) conducted in 2018 from January to December of that year. However the report did not explain how the data was collected during February to April the period we all know was the national election period, when economy was at a standstill, movements were restricted and so on. Such a period was surely not a period of data collection, let alone being with the households collecting data from them during those days and weeks. It is just unbelievable! And yet the report did not say how they managed to get the estimates for those 3 months at all.’

Furthermore, the report states that the response rate is 100% all 6840 households were interviewed, hmhmh … this is surely out of reality, especially when it was not explained in the report the circumstances that led to this ‘100%’; why should we then trust the estimates coming from such data. There was even no body absent from home, this is unbelievable.

In addition, in 2011 the sample size was 6800 out of 820000 households, and in 2018 the sample size is 6840 out of 1300000 households; this simply shows that in 2018 SSL ran the SLIHS survey on a smaller sample in proportion to the total number of households, and hence violated the ‘law of large numbers’ (the more the better) and hence undermined the overall estimates of the poverty figures presented on SLIHS report.

Of course no one is saying that the poverty figures must always be higher; but if it is 56 percent as the World Bank have stated then it must be statistically sound and realistic reflecting the daily realities of the people. But this figures the World Bank presented this time around, many policy makers and Statisticians are raising pertinent concerns. The fact that the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, the World Bank Country Manager and the Statistician General Mallam O himself failed to sign their statement contained in the 2018 SLIHS Report, speaks volumes as to the trust these people have in the veracity of the 2018 poverty figures. I rest my case…

By Aluspa

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