Syndicate content

Demographic

Evidence based policy or policy based evidence? Supply and demand for data in a donor dominant world

Humanity Journal's picture

This post, by Morten Jerven, is a contribution to an online symposium on the changing nature of knowledge production in fragile states. Be sure to read other entries by Deval Desai and Rebecca TapscottLisa Denney and Pilar Domingo, and Michael Woolcock.

Patients seeking treatment at Redemption Hospital in Monrovia, In 2010 I was doing research for Poor Numbers: How we are misled by African development statistics and what to do about it. I was In Lusaka, Zambia on a Wednesday afternoon, and was having a free and frank conversation with a specialist working for the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) office there as part of the ethnographic component of my book. One of the themes we kept returning to was the problem that donors demanded evidence that was not necessarily relevant for Zambian policy makers. We were also discussing how results-oriented MDG reporting had created real outside pressure to distort statistics, with donors having the final say on what gets measured, when and how. Indeed, whenever I asked anyone in Zambia—and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa—“what do we know about economic growth?,” a recurring issue was how resources were diverted from domestic economic statistics to MDG-relevant statistics.

Two days later I was sitting in the Central Statistical Office in Lusaka, talking to the then only remaining member of the economic statistics division. In 2007, this division was manned by three statisticians, but when I returned in 2010, there was only one person there. The other two had been pulled from economic statistics to social and demographic statistics where there was more donor money for per diem payments. The phone rang. DfID Lusaka was on the other end. They had a problem. They had financed a report on social statistics, but the office statistician tasked with completing the report had recently travelled to Japan to participate in a generously funded training course, leaving the report incomplete. Could someone help out? And so it was that the last remaining economic statistician for the Zambian government temporarily left the office to come to the rescue.

Where did the demographers in Africa go?

Anne Bakilana's picture



We are writing this from Pretoria, at the seventh African Population Conference (APC) jointly hosted by the government of South Africa and the Union for African Population Studies (UAPS). The conference  is convened only once every four years, so this was a rare opportunity for the World Bank Group to engage the region’s academicians and policymakers on the conference’s key theme: Demographic Dividend in Africa: Prospects, Opportunities and Challenges.

Argentina’s challenge: getting rich before getting old

Ignacio Apella's picture



Probably, Mafalda - an Argentinean comic book character - was right when she said that "the urgent things do not leave time for the important things". However, it is necessary that, in this context, we must stop and think what should be done and what is important.

Argentina is going through a demographic transition process, which implies opportunities and challenges in economics and social fields. That is the actual case of Argentina, as well as the rest of Latin America.
 

Could Youth-Led Reconciliation Put Sri Lanka Back on the Map?

Dilinika Peiris's picture

The three decade long war in Sri Lanka was instigated due to unmet youth aspirations. Today, Sri Lanka is well known as a post conflict country. No Sri Lankan in their right minds would like to witness the same again. As a Sri Lankan who has lived and worked most of my life in Sri Lanka, I can’t help but feel that my future could have been different if there was no conflict during the best part of my youth. I know many others feel the same.

Right now, most of Sri Lanka’s population is of working age. This demographic bonus was opened in the 1990s and will close in a few years time. According to Prof. Indralal De Silva from the University of Colombo, this demographic dividend will close in 2017, given the current trends.

It's time all decision makers and development practitioners think YOUNG. Youth need to be mainstreamed into development work and given a seat at the table to actively participate in policy making processes.

How Can Sri Lanka take Advantage of its Demographic Dividend?

Susrutha Goonasekera's picture

Much has been said about Sri Lanka’s uniqueness among developing countries; no one can deny that the oldest population pyramid outside of wealthy countries.

The demographic transition implies an aging of the population, but before old-age dependency becomes an issue, there is an intermediate period of a demographic dividend when a larger proportion of the population will be at the prime working age. The success to managing the long-term age-dependency effects of the demographic transition is to use this intermediate period of demographic dividend to conserve resources for future use and to plan for a more cost-effective strategy to deal with the future age burden. This will allow older people to live a happy productive life.

The challenge is to develop a strategic approach that takes advantage of the demographic dividend period both in terms of making strategic decisions for future cost-effectiveness and save resources for future use.