Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Poverty Statistics for Equatorial Guinea Are Outdated, Says World Bank and IMF Experts

World Bank will support establishment of statistics institute in the country.

Perceptions of Equatorial Guinea are skewed by outdated statistical data, said representatives of the World Bank and IMF participating in a panel at the Emerging Equatorial Guinea conference today in Malabo.

“Statistics about Equatorial Guinea are very much outdated, particularly poverty numbers,” said Gregor Binkert, World Bank country director for Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Angola, and Sao Tome and Principe. “Some of the figures [cited in public sources] are from as far back as ’05 or ’06,” he said.

Binkert said The World Bank would support the establishment of an official statistics institute and a system for collecting and analyzing statistics in Equatorial Guinea.

Jon Shields, the International Monetary Fund’s mission chief for Equatorial Guinea, agreed with the need to “start collecting statistics and to look at the reliability of the statistics we have.”

The government of Equatorial Guinea has long disputed statistics claiming that the vast majority of its population is extremely poor. Many visitors to the country and expatriates have noted that, while poverty exists, there is no anecdotal evidence to support the kinds of statistics that are generally repeated in news and other reports.

“We look at economic performance based on the information we have, but the figures are unreliable, often suppositions,” Shields said. Statistics on gross domestic product and income distribution need to be reevaluated, he said.

Shields said that statistics need to be gathered to analyze and improve public expenditure—to determine whether it is sustainable and sufficiently controlled, and how it can be improved.

Both men agreed that the lack of reliable statistics is a problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but it is particularly acute in Equatorial Guinea, which has experienced enormous growth and development over the past ten years.

Binkert called Equatorial Guinea’s physical infrastructure, in which it has heavily invested its petroleum revenues, “impressive,” and said that he believed Equatorial Guinea has entered a period in which it should place greater emphasis on social investments such as public health and education.

He said that the government had been spending to improve medical care but now needs to shift its emphasis. “Hospitals have been built, but there is a need to develop a full health system.”
Binkert said that The World Bank will develop programs to encourage Equatorial Guinea to study other countries that have transformed their economies or have other experiences that can be helpful, like South Korea, Singapore, Colombia and Costa Rica. These programs would include visits, exchanges and twinnings.
The panel discussion was held as part of the second and final day of the Emerging Equatorial Guinea conference, an investor conference being held in the Sipopo international conference center outside Malabo. Some 700 persons, including 400 international business representatives, attended the opening day’s sessions.