The recovery of the country’s economy following the coronavirus crisis is long and slow due to data scarcity, experts said.
Relief distribution is also affected due to the lack of a proper database, according to them.
The experts also claimed that the data scarcity has appeared as one of the major challenges in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
They would like the government to resolve the data scarcity problem, enabling them to take up proper plans to tackle the socioeconomic challenges.
Distinguished Fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Professor Mustafizur Rahman underscored the need for the formation of an “Independent Commission” to provide accurate data for the sake of proper policies of the country on the overall economic situation.
The noted economist said providing wrong information influenced by political perspective will distract policy makers from formulating proper policies. So, data gathering has to be strengthened in the government institutions for the sake of sustainable employment too.
“Accurate data is much needed to overcome the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. We’re getting a wrong signal observing overall economic indexes like employment, inflation, income disparity and GDP growth. The unemployment problem won’t be resolved if the government formulates policy in the dark,” he added.
According to CPD, poverty rate could go as high as 35.0 per cent, (24.3 per cent in 2016) as a result of COVID-19 with the consequence that, an additional 17.5 million people could have fallen into poverty. A study by the thinktank in June 2020 indicated that due to COVID-19, about 13 million jobs were at risk, which is approximately 20 per cent of the domestic labour force.
Dr Sajjat Zohir, Executive Director of Economic Research Group, said the government’s different good initiatives can’t be implemented in a transparent way due to lack of accurate data.
“We appreciate the government’s initiatives like cash allowance, housing and social safety net programme. But initiatives will be criticised for not having proper data. We should improve our database and upgrade the country’s firms who work here,” he also said.
Dr Sajjat urged the government to improve the quality of the country’s consulting firms. “If we can improve our consulting firms then our institutions will remain safe as well,” he also said.
He opined the data scarcity has appeared as one of the major challenges in implementation of the SDGs.
Dr Firdousi Naher, professor of economics department at Dhaka University said the coronavirus created an impact on overall society and economy. “In this circumstance, we should make a list to identify “new poor” to overcome their problems quickly,” she also said.
Dr Firdousi added that accurate data will help to take innovative activities.
CPD’s Research Director Dr Khondoker Golam Moazzem said the recovery trend of Covid-19 impact in the country is slow and long due to data scarcity. Some 28 per cent young people left their studies to support their families.
“The government’s stimulus package has covered 33 per cent poor in the country. The Covid-19 created huge number of new poor. So, all of them should be assisted. Proper data is needed to help them and take innovative programmes,” he told UNB.
The Executive Director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) Dr Selim Raihan added a proper assessment of the challenges posed by the pandemic is crucial through data collection and research. “Without regular data collection and surveys, informed policymaking will not be possible. Increasing the frequency of data collection is needed to overcome the statistical limitations in policymaking. So, the government needs to develop its capacity,” he added.
Dr Raihan said there are no data matches among the government agencies including the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) that’s why it’s tough to estimate the supply of essentials here. Data scarcity creates many problems in Bangladesh.
Dr Shamsul Alam, Member (Senior Secretary) of General Economics Division at Bangladesh Planning Commission mentioned the country is facing many challenges in implementation of SDGs. One of the major challenges is mobilisation of required resources for implementation of interventions for achieving the SDGs.
According to SDGs First Progress Report 2018 made by him, “The data paucity has emerged as a major challenge for monitoring of SDGs. We have felt the pinch in preparing the 2018 SDG progress report, because we have data for only 70 indicators (30 per cent) out of 232 indicators prescribed by the UN to assess progress of SDGs. The National Statistical Organization (NSO) needs to step up its efforts to reduce the gap. For this to happen, capacity of the BBS needs to be strengthened, perhaps revamped.”
Dr Shamsul added that the Line Ministries/Divisions should also take initiative in generating administrative data related to SDGs. UN agencies and other development partners have to come forward immediately to strengthen BBS and other Administrative line Ministries capacity to generate quality and reliable data in a timely manner.
“A bit sadly, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) ranked Bangladesh 120 out of 157 countries in the SDG Index and Data Dashboards Report 2017 observing change for only one year (2016). The ranking could have been made based on partially available data or data gathered from non – credible sources. Latest data, albeit often with a lag of 2/3 years, of course do not support this ranking. It is therefore necessary to harmonise data between the Government of Bangladesh source and UN SDSN,” he mentioned in the report.