Numbers say it all

Week 08 – 24 February 2012

Many arguments and statements can be based on information like numbers and statistics converted to percentages. It can be used convincingly to support the particular statement or argument. That is if the numbers and percentages that are so easily thrown around, are in fact correct and not just figures grabbed out of the air to support your own view about an argument or statement.

Correct numbers can however be wrongly applied in an equation which will result in a total wrong message being passed on to the population. One of these is the argument that HIV infections are on a percentage bases declining. This can only be true if the calculation was done by calculating the percentage increase of HIV infections in comparison to the total population (infected and not infected) in stead of the percentage infections in comparison to the difference between non-effected persons and the infected cases at the previous time when this calculation was done. Nobody knows precisely how many people are in fact infected and these numbers are based on assumptions.

Instead of showing a decline in infections, there might even be a rapid increase in HIV infections. The percentage of people who have been infected will increase the whole time and the percentage that have not been infected will steadily decrease. This will be the case until only people dying from Aids related diseases are higher than those contracting the disease. Dreaming of a HIV-free generation is therefore farfetched for this generation. Two or three generations from now it might be possible, only if no more infections are reported and all the children born into the next generation are born and stay HIV-free.

Very much in the same way Politicians and MEC’s congratulate each other in the higher pass rate in the Matric exams. School dropouts up to grade 10 are reported to be on the increase. These dropouts are the ones who most probably would not have passed matric. More students (percentage wise) that had a good chance of passing Matric eventually reached the level to enter the exams and with that a higher pass rate is achieved while nothing is done to lift the literacy levels of the dropouts. This way, politicians contribute to the low level of education of the general population and help to increase the gap between the half literate and the well educated. The best excuse they can come up with is that the NP made maths difficult for black South Africans. If this was true, why do many black pupils attending former Model C schools excel in Maths?

The same example was set only last week by President Zuma with his statement that only 8% of  land has been returned to its so called righteous owners while it was stated by the department that deals with this, that they cannot say how much land has been successfully returned to the groups that filed claims, nor how much land was actually in the hands of the government. This is out and out a political statement by the president whose party is known to fall behind in all the promises it has made so far to its supporters.

Needless to say anything about Zuma’s promise on “expanding infrastructure” in his State of the Nation Address. His party has so far done nothing else that destroying existing infrastructure by not maintaining it. This last promise will surely kill the goose that has been laying the golden eggs to keep this fragile welfare state of ours, with its heavily loaded gravy train going. This cancels all the promises made in the budget speech of Mr Pravin Gordhan, minister of Finance.