Officials from Eastern and Southern Africa recently gathered in Maseru for a hands-on training program that promises to revolutionise how governments understand their financial circumstances.
The Commonwealth Secretariat, in collaboration with the Macroeconomic and Financial Management Institute for Eastern and Southern Africa, delivered this crucial initiative from September 25 to 29, 2023.
At the heart of this endeavor lies the Debt Data Quality Assessment Framework, a cutting-edge tool developed through the joint efforts of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Its primary goal is to equip officials with the skills and knowledge required to perform rigorous quality checks on debt data.
Libako â€˜Mamahase Leisanyane, the Director of Lesothoâ€™s Economic Services, inaugurated the training.
Leisanyaneâ€™s warm welcome extended to debt management officers from Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, and Lesotho set the tone for an intensive program that promised to redefine the standards of financial data management.
She emphasised the paramount importance of maintaining comprehensive, accurate, and timely statistics.
In her view, this is the linchpin of effective debt management operations. She went on to explain how quality data serves as the bedrock for designing and executing strategies to manage debt, fostering transparency through regular reporting, and ensuring timely debt servicing.
â€œComprehensive, accurate, and timely statistics are essential for effective debt management operations,â€ Leisanyane said.
Mac Banda, the acting Head of the Commonwealthâ€™s Debt Management Unit, took the podium to deliver a stark message: quality data on public debt transcends mere numbers; it forms the very foundation of transparency and informed decision-making.
Banda voiced concerns over the challenges many countries face in generating error-free debt data, noting that this lack of confidence undermines responsible lending, investor confidence, and overall financial stability.
â€œHowever, many countries still face challenges in generating error-free debt data. The lack of confidence in their debt data limits their willingness to share it externally, which, in turn, undermines responsible lending, investor confidence and overall financial stability,â€ he noted.
Recent revelations from the World Bank underscore the urgency of initiatives like the Debt Data Quality Assessment Framework.
Shockingly, nearly 40 percent of low-income developing countries have never published their debt data on their websites, revealing a glaring gap in transparency.
Banda also pointed out that Eastern and Southern African countries are grappling with increased debt risks due to sluggish economic growth and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As decisions regarding public debt restructuring and new financing options take center stage, their success hinges on the availability of quality debt data.
â€œThrough our tool, we hope countries will be much more equipped to tackle data quality issues that will save money, reduce risks, and allocate resources more wisely – thus paving the way for sustainable development,â€ Banda said.
Delegates participating in the training hailed the robust features of the new tool, expressing confidence that it would revolutionise their day-to-day operations.
Additionally, they benefited from a presentation on how Commonwealth Meridian, a web-based software, could further support their endeavors to enhance debt statistics and mitigate risks to debt sustainability.
This training initiative marked a pivotal step in an ongoing series of activities organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat in partnership with the Macroeconomic and Financial Management Institute for Eastern and Southern Africa, all aimed at promoting debt sustainability in the region.