Monday, October 25, 2010

The politics of Egypt's feeble statistics

In Egypt the state has a virtual monopoly on data, which effectively stops public debate about government decisions

Brian Whitaker, Monday 25 October 2010

".....In effect, this gives the Egyptian state a monopoly on statistics, and for 30 years (at least) Capmas has been headed not by professional statisticians but by a succession of major-generals from the military.

Anyone wishing to compile data independently, through surveys or interviews, must first obtain a permit from Capmas's "General Department for Security" – and that even applies to university students.

Where controversial issues are involved, the security department often delays permission indefinitely or refuses it outright, without giving reasons. Capmas may also delete certain questions from a survey or demand that they be re-worded.

For countries that wish to survive and prosper in the modern world, this sort of attitude obviously cannot continue. But overcoming the fear of statistics requires a degree of openness that the Egyptian regime and many others are still reluctant to embrace. It's not just the numbers that they fear but the loss of control."

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