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STATCAP - Capacity Building in Statistics

A new lending program to support more efficient and effective statistical systems in developing countries

Why statistical capacity building?

Photo by Arne HoelDuring the past 50 years, the developing world has experienced strong, but very uneven progress on sustainable growth and poverty reduction. The new post-Monterrey partnership for development has identified the main components for improving on this record: the need for good country-specific and country-owned policies and institutions as well as a continuing commitment to provide effective development assistance. There is broad consensus that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) identify the desired outcomes as well as the means for measuring progress. Throughout the development community there is now agreement that consistent and coherent implementation are the key towards achieving the MDGs, with a shared accountability and a new focus on results.

Better statistical data and improved analysis, while they are clearly not all that is needed, can create the political will for these changes to take place, and are crucial for the process of better measuring, monitoring and managing for development results. Without good statistics, governments cannot deliver efficient administration, good management, and evidence-based policy making. Statistics provide a means for the public to monitor the activities of government and make decisions about their own lives. An effective and efficient national statistical system, providing the data needed to support better policies and to monitor progress, is a crucial component of good governance. The ability to provide regular and reliable data on the economy and the well being of the population is an important indicator of good policies and institutions. Disseminating good quality data that have integrity increases transparency and promotes accountability. It complements important government processes, such as budget management and auditing.

A wide range of social, economic, demographic and environmental statistical data is needed to support the development process, to provide the evidence base for policy formulation, to support implementation, to monitor progress and to evaluate outcomes. A sophisticated international statistical system has been developed over the years to meet the needs of the development community, with a network of agencies compiling information and disseminating internationally comparable data. The quality of the output, however, is only as good as the source data, which originate from individual countries. Most of the data needed to monitor progress towards MDGs, for example, originate in national statistical systems, which must also provide data for national policy makers and the general public on a wide variety of topics. But the quality and availability of these data depend upon the capacity of institutions involved in national statistical systems, which are often undervalued and under-funded.

Why a new program?

Many national statistical systems are caught in a vicious cycle where inadequate resources restrain output and undermine the quality of statistics, while the poor quality of statistics leads to lower demand and hence fewer resources. Sustainable improvement in the statistical systems of developing countries - true capacity building - requires programs to increase both the demand for and the supply of statistics. In other words, there must be a break in the cycle, encouraging countries to develop the capacity to conduct sophisticated statistical activities reflecting their own agenda and to make better use of these data in managing their development programs. STATCAP has been designed to address this situation by providing substantial resources for both investment and current operations, based on a country-owned and developed strategy.

The need for action now is driven by the new demands for statistical data from the preparation of poverty reduction strategies, from the need to monitor progress towards the MDGs and by the new emphasis on implementation and results, post-Monterrey. While the World Bank and other donors have invested in statistical activities for many years, much of this investment has been piecemeal, uncoordinated and short-term, often as a component of another program. It has tended to focus more on meeting immediate demands of key users, rather than sustainable capacity building. To address these issues, STATCAP is designed to enable countries to make significant investments in statistical capacity, to both improve efficiency and effectiveness in the future and finance the most urgent current statistical activities. It will be implemented using the principles of agreed by PARIS21 - an international consortium, sponsored by the UN, OECD, the World Bank, the IMF and the European Commission - of country ownership and donor coordination, adopting a long-term strategy, based on individual country needs and taking into account local conditions.

How will STATCAP work?

STATCAP will be a horizontal Adaptable Program Loan (APL), based on a sector wide approach. Under the APL, individual countries will obtain separate loans and/or credits to finance their national statistical capacity building projects. National projects will be appraised and prepared for approval following normal provisions for investment lending. The program will treat specific country projects developed within the global framework as "phases" of a horizontal APL, with approval at the Vice President level. Countries may be grouped according to their readiness to undertake the initial set of assistance activities aimed at establishing capacity. The pre-conditions for countries to participate in the program will serve as the "triggers" in an APL for the start of a next phase. To support a long-term approach, countries may implement several linked projects, with the completion of the first serving as the trigger for the next, with appropriate indicators of success and agreed mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation.

Participation in STATCAP will require the preparation of a Project Appraisal Document (PAD) using a standard template. The PAD will be based on a STATCAP Master Plan (SMP) for the country. The SMP will cover the entire national statistical system and will draw on existing national strategies and capabilities. In most cases it will involve an evaluation of the capacity of the statistical system, a review of strengths and weaknesses, and a review of the needs of data users. It will incorporate proposals for institutional strengthening aimed at building sustainable national statistical capabilities through human and technological resources development, and the adoption of sound management practices, following international statistical standards. The SMP will provide the rationale for the proposed investment operation and supply the essential background information needed by the Task Team Leader to prepare the Project Appraisal Document (PAD). The structure of the SMP is designed to link directly to the preparation of the PAD.

It is anticipated that the SMP will normally be prepared by National Statistical Agencies through a consultative process with both data providers and users, supported by consultants, and with technical advice support from DECDG. It will be grounded in existing national strategy documents and processes, but in countries where there is no existing statistical strategy process, then support may be needed to initiate this before the SMP can be completed. Financial assistance for the preparation of the SMP and for country strategy processes may be available from the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) or other grant facilities.

What will STATCAP finance?

STATCAP will provide flexibility in financing, including meeting recurrent costs, providing new means for financing investments and making best use of all sources of technical support and advice. It will support the long-term development of the national statistical system and may involve a series of separate grants or loans as appropriate. It will cover all aspects of statistical development and it is expected that individual country projects will include four main components:

1. Improving statistical policy and the regulatory and institutional framework, including issues such as independence and confidentiality, the adequacy of legislation and the dialogue with data users;
2. Supporting the development of statistical infrastructure, including such aspects as business registers, sampling frames, classifications, database structures and geographic information systems;
3. Upgrading and developing statistical operations and procedures;
4. Providing investments in physical infrastructure and equipment.

Assessing progress

Each separate project or phase will identify specific targets and indicators of success, based on goals set out in the SMP and agreed through a consultative process. Countries will be encouraged to use international standards and frameworks such as the IMF's General Data Dissemination System (GDDS) and Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF) and the UN's fundamental principles of official statistics, as mechanisms to assess progress. Increasing use will also be made of the indicators of statistical capacity building that have recently been developed by PARIS21.

For further information contact Development Data Group

Misha Belkindas 202-473-37611
Graham Eele +44-1291-630168
Olga Ivanova 202-473-3818,

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