CAIRO: Sixty-seven percent of Egyptians aged 18 and above believe, either completely or somewhat, in the statistics and information presented by the government, while 21 percent do not trust it, according to a report issued by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
The report was issued to coincide with the first World Statistics Day (WSD) on Oct. 20, and discusses and analyzes the importance of statistics.
According to the report, the accessibility of information and statistics is the basis of government transparency and allows people to practice freedom of expression and participate in the decision making process.
The UN Statistical Commission issued 10 fundamental principles of official statistics in 1994, according to the report.
Principle 7 states that “the laws, regulations and measures under which the statistical systems operate are to be made public.
“Withholding information from the people will make them lose confidence in the government and increase the gap between them,” the report stated.
Amr Hashem, a political analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Daily News Egypt, “We have a huge problem when it comes to accurate statistics in Egypt — whether it’s about the rate of poverty, the number of Copts, or the amount of participation in the elections.
“I think the main issue is that the government is afraid to confront the people with certain facts.”
According to the report, 77 percent of Egyptians aged 18 and above believe that the media plays its role in publishing official information and statistics, while 9 percent disagree.
“I believe those 9 percent are the ones on the right track, because the media doesn’t usually [care about] the accuracy of statistics,” researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Nabil Abdel Fattah told Daily News Egypt.
“It merely publishes these statistics based on officials’ quotes or even official centers without knowing what methods these centers used in gathering these statistics,” he added.
Abdel Fattah explained that accurate statistics in developing countries give citizens the opportunity to participate in politics and to monitor different policies that directly affect his or her daily life.
According to the report, governments can even be held accountable by the people based on the findings of accurate statistics and information.
Thirty-four percent of Egyptian people believe the media doesn’t publish official statistics and information because the government “doesn’t want them published.”
“The lack of accurate statistics [in Egypt] proves that there’s foul play and there are wrong policies being implemented,” Abdel Fattah said. “And there’s corruption that’s not being monitored by the people or the media.”
The United Nations General Assembly issued decree number 59 stating that freedom of access to information is a basic human right and the cornerstone for all liberties advocated by the United Nations, according to the report.
Egypt ranked 67 among 139 countries regarding the government’s transparency in issuing policies in 2009/10, while Singapore ranked number one followed by Hong Kong, the report stated.
Methods for gathering accurate statistics can range from field surveys — which is the most common method — to administrative records, include records for keeping tallies of the birth rates and death rates in each area, according to the report.
The main producers of statistics and information in Egypt are CAPMAS, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Central Bank of Egypt and the Ministry of Finance.
The report states that gathering statistics goes as far back as the Pharaohs, who were the first ones to have a population census of the world in 3340 BC.
The most important characteristics of statistics are “accuracy, respecting timelines, accessibility, clarity and comparability,” the report said.
“Using statistics, information and scientific approaches in making and supporting decisions is no longer a trait for the developed countries only, but it’s a necessity and an international obligation on the developing countries [as well],” the report stated.