Members of Parliament have expressed concern over the incapacitation of the underfunded Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) ahead of the next census in 2022.
Statistics regularly released by Zimstat, which has since suspended the publishing of annual inflation figures, are either two months or more behind.
Discussing the 2020 budget with Finance and Economic Development Minister, Mthuli Ncube, in Parliament recently legislators said the state of affairs at Zimstat left a lot to be desired at a time when statistics matter.
“One of the major challenges that we have faced as a country as the Honourable Minister in his budget presentation told us is that he has now stopped the publishing of annual inflation,” said Dzivarasekwa MP, Edwin Mushoriwa.
“The reason that the Honourable Minister raised is not sufficient and one of the major challenges that we then face is that Zimstat which is supposed to produce statistics for this nation is also incapacitated. If you go there, most of the information that they are getting, they are actually doing desktop analysis. They do not even have vehicles. They have nothing to use. It is even worse as we now prepare to go to the census.”
The legislator demanded to know how much Ncube had set aside for Zimstat in 2020; something he said was not reflected in the Blue Book.
Zimstat figures on the unemployment rate, consumer basket and the Bulawayo population have in the past been dismissed as not reflective of the situation on the ground.
Another MP, Willas Madzimure for Kambuzuma said it was important that Zimbabwe produced statistics.
“It is important to produce statistics because it is the only way that you can use to measure economic performance and also take the appropriate action at the appropriate time,” said Madzimure.
“As a result, Zimstat must be well funded but I am trying to find in the Blue Book where Zimstat is funded and I cannot see it. Can the Minister elaborate on that or indicate to us where Zimstat is.”
In his response, Ncube said the Zimstat allocation was part of the Finance Ministry’s budget.
“This is sitting in the core Ministry of Finance budget; I will tell you exactly what it is,” he said.
“For ZIMSTATS, it is $186 million and for the census we have a budget of US$85 million. It is not in our budget, we are going to raise this outside the budget. I wanted to make sure you know just in case you are worrying about where are they going to get the resources for the census. We are going to raise this from outside and we are making a lot of progress in that direction. “
Ncube said the country was well supported in as far as the census was concerned.
He further explained: “On the census by the way, Treasury has already allocated $45 million this year 2019 budget not even 2020, for the purchase of motor vehicles, iPads and motorbikes to prepare for the census. We are adequately funded.”