PM moots 'Knowledge Institution' for statistical skill development

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New Delhi, Sep 9 (UNI) Saying that the flagship programmes of the UPA government aimed at improving social and economic conditions of the people need independent evaluation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today mooted the idea of setting up a 'Knowledge Institution' which will create a skilled pool of manpower with expertise in statistics by co-ordinating the work of development and research institutions.

''I am asking the Planning Commission, the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Statistics to collectively work out details for setting up such an office,'' Dr Singh said while inaugurating a Conference here of States and Union Territories on the 'Management of Statistics.' Dr Singh said the Central government was also examining the data sharing policy to bring all non-strategic information in the public domain. A pro-active policy of disclosure will be in keeping with the spirit of Right to Information Act. Information collected at huge cost, with the taxpayers money, should be made available to the general public without their having to ask for it. This will improve the quality of data as it will be subject to informed public scrutiny.

The Prime Minister said the government was both a producer and consumer of information, adding that to be effective in public policy it needs to promote multiple sources of information.

Dr Singh noted that the government has dramatically increased the scale of funding of flagship programmes in the areas of education, health and rural employment.

''But we need independent evaluations of these programmes based on data that is generated both by the government and by others.

At present, the evaluation function is dispersed over several wings of the government. The Ministries in charge of the programme do some evaluation, but this cannot be called independent. The Programme Evaluation Organisation of the Planning Commission also does ex-post facto evaluation. However, there is need for much stronger system of independent evaluation that will report on the progress of the major flaogship programmes in the areas of employment, education and health that will not not only monitor progress against targets but also suggest ways and means of improving performance to produce better results. The skills required for programme re-design are very different from those required to monitor programmes,'' he said.

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