Data scarcity a major challenge in the implementation of SDGs by 2030
The recovery of Bangladesh's economy following the coronavirus crisis is long and slow due to data scarcity, experts say.
Relief distribution is also affected due to the lack of a proper database, according to the experts.
The data scarcity has appeared as one of the major challenges in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, they further add, urging 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) Prof Mustafizur Rahman underscored the need for an “independent commission” to provide accurate data for the sake of proper policies on the overall economic situation.
The noted economist said providing wrong information influenced by political perspective would 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 are 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 (while) in the dark," he added.
According to CPD, poverty rate could go as high as 35% (24.3% in 2016) as a result of Covid-19, which means an additional 17.5 million people could fall 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% of the domestic labour force.
Dr Sajjad Zohir, executive director of research platform Economic Research Group, said different good initiatives taken by the government could not be implemented in a transparent way due to a lack of accurate data.
"We appreciate the government's initiatives like cash allowance, housing, and social safety net program. But (these) initiatives will be criticized for not having proper data. We should improve our database and upgrade the country's firms," he also said.
Dr Sajjad Zohir urged the government to improve the quality of the country's consulting firms. "If we can improve our consulting firms, our institutions will remain safe as well."
He opined that data scarcity had appeared as one of the major challenges in implementation of the SDGs.
Dr Firdousi Naher, professor of economics at Dhaka University, said the coronavirus created an impact on society and the economy. "In this circumstance, we should make a list to identify the ‘new poor’ to overcome their problems quickly."
She added that accurate data would help to take innovative activities.
CPD Research Director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem said the recovery trend from the impact of Covid-19 in the country is slow and long, due to data scarcity. Some 28% young people have stopped their studies to support their families.
"The government's stimulus package has covered 33% poor in the country. Covid-19 created a huge number of new poor, all of whom should be assisted. Proper data is needed to help them and take innovative initiatives," he told UNB.
Dr Selim Raihan, executive director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem), said 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. 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 the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), which is why it is tough to estimate the supply of essentials.
Dr Shamsul Alam, member (senior secretary) of the General Economics Division at Bangladesh Planning Commission, said the country was facing many challenges in the implementation of SDGs.
One of the major challenges is mobilization of required resources for implementation of interventions for achieving the SDGs, he said.
According to SDGs First Progress Report 2018 that he had prepared, "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 percent) 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 and 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 the 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.