Speech at the workshop on Viet Nam’s statistical development strategy

20 Dec 2010

Speaker: Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director
Date:       20 December 2010
Event:     Workshop on Viet Nam’s statistical development strategy
Venue:    Bac Ninh

Mr. Do Thuc, Director General of the General Statistics Office;
Ladies and gentlemen;

Good quality, reliable and consistent data plays a crucial role in evidence-based policy formulation, monitoring and evaluation. The country’s Socio-Economic Development Strategy (SEDS) for 2011-2020 and the five-year Socio-Economic Development Plan (SEDP) for 2011-2015 are being finalized to direct Viet Nam towards inclusive, equitable, and sustainable growth. At the recent Consultative Group (CG) meeting, development partners noted a recurrent theme in various agenda. That is, while Viet Nam has generally instituted a sound strategy, policy and laws in each area, its weakness lies in its implementation of policies, enforcement of laws and co-ordination of policies among ministries. Timely and relevant information and data is important when developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating such a national strategy and plan, as well as socio-economic development plans at the local level. 
 
We noted that over the last decade, the Vietnamese statistics system has been making great efforts to reform and improve its operation, making it better able to meet the data needs of a fast changing economy. This reform includes the development of the Statistical Law in 2003 and the setting up of the National Statistics Indicator System in 2005, which was revised and standardized earlier this year. Over the past couple of years, statistics on social and economic issues in Viet Nam are also increasingly being made available to different users, including the government, researchers and businesses. Most importantly, there is strong government interest in, and support to, the statistics system.

Nevertheless, it is not uncommon to hear users complain about the difficulties they face in accessing data. And data on some issues is confusing because of many different sources, varying definitions and methodologies, as well as conflicting figures used. There is also an issue with data that is both deficient and excessive. For instance, on the one hand there is still a lack of data and indicators which can effectively assess emerging issues such as migration, urbanization, urban poverty, climate change, and the impact of economic downturns and crises. On the other hand, the number of statistics on some issues are excessive, with numerous data not being used and many agencies collecting information on the same indicators. There are also issues around the timeliness and quality of some data.

I am therefore very pleased that GSO has taken the initiative to develop a strategy for Viet Nam’s statistics development, as well as a vision towards 2025. The strategy, together with the concrete action plans, will help shape the national statistics system and overcome the challenges I just mentioned. With a strategy in place, the increasing needs for quality, reliable, timely and useful data can be addressed.

Once the strategy has been developed there are a number of key steps which are needed in order to build concrete action plans and implement the strategy. Let me highlight a couple of these.

First of all, it is important that action plans are developed not only for the national level, but also for sectoral and local levels – keeping the end needs of users in mind. Secondly, a coherent monitoring and evaluation framework is needed to track and improve the implementation of the strategy. Third, GSO’s role needs to be strengthened so that it can effectively coordinate different stakeholders and external supporters and help ensure an efficient, systematic and coherent national statistics system. Finally, I would like to stress the very important role of the government in providing continuous support to improving the statistics system.

 I am very pleased that GSO has issued a concrete roadmap for the development of a statistics strategy and has been moving fast in the process. This demonstrates the clear wish by the GSO, its statisticians and the government to improve the statistics system.

I am particularly pleased with the respect shown by the government and GSO for both national and international stakeholders. This workshop is a clear example of that, with statistical issues being discussed among national and international partners. The UN, the World Bank and other donors are also working closely together through an advisory group, which was recently formed to support GSO in the development and implementation of the national strategy.

I hope you will all contribute actively to the discussion today, focusing on how we can improve the national statistics system. In particular, I encourage you to discuss ways to strengthen the legal framework and enforcement around statistics, understanding data users’ needs, improving dissemination policies, strengthening the coordination between data providers, producers and users, and finally how to ensure the independency of statistics and the statistical system.

Before closing, I would like to stress how important your work is. If we don’t know how to measure progress towards our goal, it is difficult to assess achievements towards the goal. With Viet Nam as a middle-income country, it is time to measure “quality of growth” for its people and the society. These measurements will help policy makers formulate more targeted policies for the country that Viet Nam aspires to become, and help the state implement the policies through concrete actions, as well as help citizens participate in making progress towards the national goal.

I wish you all a successful workshop.

Thank you