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Statistics South Africa Budget Vote Speech by the Honourable Jeff Radebe, MP, Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, at the National Assembly, Cape Town
 18 MAY 2017
 Vote 12, 2017
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Madam Speaker,
Deputy Minister, Buti Manamela
Chairperson of the Statistics Council, Ben Mphahlele
Statistician General, Dr Pali Lehohla
Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee
Honourable Members
Our Distinguished Guests in the Gallery
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
It is a great honour, and indeed a singular one for me to once again, address this august house on a matter of national importance. I stand before you to present the Budget Vote of Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), an institution established under Act 6 of 1999, and reporting to the Minister in the Presidency.
South Africa seeks to be a developmental state as envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP).  This injunction requires all institutions to be aligned, to be functional, intersecting appropriately and optimizing the use of our state resources to achieve a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. Such a state should defeat the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. 
It is a state that should therefore confront the fourth industrial revolution through youth skilling, tooling for-purpose and anticipating the future in a globe so ever difficult to predict. 
Without a planning system, we learn from Prophet Joel in the Locust Plague and the Day of the Lord that, and I quote, “What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust has left, the destroying locust has eaten…..The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but after them a desolate wilderness and nothing escapes them.”
The imperative for planning as envisaged by Prophet Joel millennia ago, is illustrated in the South African Demographic Health Survey report that Stats SA released on Monday.  Herein the report presents us what could at face value be a conundrum of positives and negatives as regards to the health of the under-five. First, it attests to the positive impact of the interventions of improved immunization coverage and maternal care. 
The results of these are significantly realised in reduced under five and infant mortality rates, and increased life expectancy. In the second instance, however, it points to stunting. 
To address these complex phenomena, we need a planning institution that has staff who are competent across disciplines such as planning, econometrics, sociology, political economy, modelling, regional science and statistics to mention but a few critical skills.  It requires the deployment of technology platforms.
Above all, we need a system that is long-term and strategically led. The NDP shows us the end state but the planning and the plan has to acquire and deploy the aforementioned capabilities to realise the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.      
Honourable members, Fellow South Africans
Yesterday, I presented the Budget Vote for the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), which is charged with the function of planning. Today, I am presenting on the one aspect of resources required for planning, namely statistics, a matter of national interest.
Statistics are not only crucial in assessing our current status, but they form the basis of any future planning. For without indicators, without comparative data of any kind, it is nearly impossible to set yourself any growth targets or even gauge your own progress. Evidence that is scientific is what we need.
A key feature of such evidence is that it should be led and produced by a skilled and competent staff compliment. It has to have a dependable and credible system produced under conditions of independence.  Stats SA is Vote 12.  Stats SA is one such institution and it conducts business under conditions of independence.
It is this sense of autonomy that as a nation we should guard selfishly at all times and ensure that those charged with such a noble endeavour put as priority the needs of the nation first. Independence prevails under conditions of clear understanding of national imperatives, the failure of which, integrity gallops. Our icon, President Nelson Mandela once said:
“A bright future beckons. The onus is on us, through hard work, honesty and integrity, to reach for the stars.”
Stats SA continues to provide the nation with products that are critical to our sought after developmental state. The run of the mill churns 246 products on the state of our economy and 67 products on the social state of our country. Stats SA is at the forefront of technology revolution in data collection, deploying computer assisted personal interviews (CAPI) in the process.
 
Chairperson,
My intervention here today is about the promise. The budget is the means by which we achieve the promise.  This is the subject of today initially but indeed continues through implementation in the months and seasons as they unfold.  Let us take a look at the highlights of the scorecard of the promise we made last year. In this regard we pledged the following and delivered on all of them successfully: 
1.    Have the Gross Domestic Product under one roof, delivered in June 2016
2.    Rebase the Consumer Price Index, delivered in February 2017
3.    Deliver the Community Survey using modern devices as pre-tested through the KwaZulu-Natal Citizen Satisfaction Survey, delivered in June 2016
4.    Deliver a new home for Stats SA, the ISIbalo House, delivered and occupied in September 2016
5.    Deliver on the South African Demographic and Health Survey, delivered in May 2017
6.    Host the very first United Nations World Data Forum, delivered in January 2017. The Forum concluded the Cape Town Global Action Plan (CTGAP): towards agenda 2030 and Stats SA the maiden host will roll out an ambitious plan focusing on capacity building as its contribution to one of the six elements of the CTGAP. 
7.    Deliver on planning tools and this was delivered continuously since November 2016
8.    Initiate legislative reform, and will be delivered in this financial year,
9.    We shall continue our continental and global commitments through the African Symposium for Statistical Development, the ASSD, which the statistician-general continues to chair since 2006 when it was inaugurated.
 
Stats SA continues to stake its claim in matters of international statistical development. The United Nations 2020 Round Population and Housing Census (RPHC) has already started in 2016 and will conclude in 2025. We have collaborated with our neighbour, Lesotho, in their Census 2016.  In Swaziland, we have provided 3500 handheld devices in running their census, which has just started.
From Kenya and Tanzania, we learnt a lot as we were part of a team that evaluated their statistics system through a peer review programme.  We are currently hosting the Somalis in statistical training for the next six months as they start the rebuilding programme of their country. In Namibia, we have worked together to put their quarterly labour force at par. A few years ago, Africa started a sterling programme on civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS).
At the end of financial year 2015/2016, 97 % of the R 2.5 billion budget of Stats SA was spent and the 3% rollover has been requested in order to handle modernized and continuous dissemination activities and payment of unitary fees for the new building.
Stats SA turned a new leaf in June 2016 when a seven decades practice of the production of GDP estimates in two separate institutions was ended. The Statistician-General and the Governor of the Reserve Bank performed a rare function on 8 June 2016, where the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) handed the responsibility of the compilation of the expenditure on Gross Domestic Product to Stats SA.
Stats SA is an organization at work. We are a government at work!
Stats SA continues to collaborate with universities to build a strong human resource capacity for emerging demands of statistical production. One of these programmes is a partnership for Masters Degrees, offered through the Centre for Regional and Urban Innovation Statistical Exploration (CRUISE) at the University of Stellenbosch. Since 2011, more than 60 staff members have completed Masters Degrees through this initiative.
Later this year, I will be launching the South Africa Regional Science Association to reinforce the discipline and practice of urban and regional science at CRUISE. 
 
Madam Speaker,
We exist in difficult times that require austerity practice with the public purse. Government as a whole is making efforts to fit their programmes within limited budgets. Stats SA is one of such departments that have taken this as a matter of course. 
The search for a secure financial position for Stats SA is not a nice to have, rather it is fundamental for purposes of getting the basic statistics right. Looking ahead therefore, our energies will be consumed by building and implementing these planning tools and modelling capability, which should enable the state to deliver in an integrated fashion.
Furthermore, we shall look at trade statistics. Trade statistics play a critical role in understanding a country’s inclination to strengthen its economy by increasing exports. For our country, preliminary review of our administrative data suggests that they are in need of repair.
The housing of GDP under one roof has with greater clarity pointed to these defects and paved the way as well for shedding light on prospective illicit financial flows.  It sets us on the right path and taking the first step in implementing the recommendation of the Illicit Financial Flows Commission.  Our major programme therefore is unravelling and addressing trade statistics.  
We shall focus on modernising statistical collection. We shall also remove the pain from the customer by easing the use of statistical evidence. This will be by the implementation of technology and getting geography to work for South Africa.  Through the production of spatial statistics the DPME’s new responsibility for SPLUMA (The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act) will be greatly assisted. 
We shall reform our system by delivering a revamped and enabling statistical law.  We shall advance and deepen our own knowledge on the demographic dividend and contribute to global knowledge systems.  To this end we shall give momentum to this process by hosting the 28th International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) to be held in Cape Town in October this year. 
All these priority programmes and projects will happen as we did in the past, in parallel with the run of the mill of 246 economic statistics and the 67 population and social statistics.   To deliver on all these imperatives, the budget allocation is as follows:
Of the current 2016/2017 financial year budget of R2.1 billion, R229 million is for economic statistics, R128 million to population and social statistics, methodology and research is allocated R67 million, statistical support and informatics has R258 million, statistical collection and outreach is allocated R585 million, survey operations is R191 million and finally administration which pays for office accommodation, transport, training and other central services and includes and the national statistics system coordination is allocated R 688 million.
We need to stand guard at Stats SA and protect it from decline. Jim Collins, in his book “How the Mighty Fall describes how success might cover up the fact that an institution is on a path to decline.  He identifies four principles that can save organisations from decline, and these are: disciplined people who have the professional will to put the organization first, disciplined thoughts of those who have the commitment to stay the course and confront reality regardless of difficulties, disciplined action of those who have the freedom to exercise power comes with great responsibilities as well as building greatness to last by the ability to stay the course while they are adapting to the changing world. 
This house has given me the opportunity to give evidence on the previous promise, it has permitted me to project on the new promise. The evidence of delivery by Stats SA is indisputable. The Auditor General has delivered evidence of no less than three successive clean audits in this regard. 
However, the risks on financing are threatening and in this regard we have a challenge to confront and resolve in order to realize the injunction by Madiba on planning.  Indeed significant progress is possible and is within our reach as we gain better handle on planning through the planning tools.  We can therefore have the capacity to allow the intervention of fate on our own terms.   
Instead of the Locust Plague and the Day of the Lord in Prophet Joel, ours should be different and attest to our dreams as Prophet Joel said “young men shall see visions and old men shall dream dreams.” We should reimagine, dream and visualize a different but better habitat as the fourth industrial revolution closes on the old world, and opens the door on the new world. 
Our youth should be empowered for this new world. Therefore let our sons and daughters dream dreams. Today, more than ever before, the continued search for better technology to enhance statistical development remains the challenge for any national statistics agency. Let us preserve and encourage it to deliver more and better.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the Chairperson of the Statistics Council, Ben Mphahlele, as well as the entire South African Statistics Council for the sterling work they continue doing in safeguarding the interests of official statistics. Furthermore, I wish to extend a word of gratitude to the Statistician-General, Dr Pali Lehohla, and the Stats SA team for ensuring that our national statistics agency churns out its products timeously and for so doing without fail.
 
Thank you.
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