What do we know?: Professor Servaas van der Berg’s poverty estimates
The main findings of the document are:
- the results created by the “Bergs” can be found being cited by the likes of ex-president Mbeki, and by senior officials in the Presidency
- the evidence necessary to prove an allegation that the poor have been harmed by the Bergs’ poor research is extremely difficult, if not impossible to obtain
- however, the information yielded by the poverty monitoring tool the Bergs produced is so coarse that it cannot be used to make anything other than the broadest of generalisations
- the reason for the poor results was the weaknesses of the official data, but the authors’ fault was in not pointing out to readers the weakness of the results they have published
- by failing to specify rigorously the criteria by which success in anti-poverty policy is to be judged, the authors opened the way for the abuse of their results
- still, it may not be too late for stimulating a national debate on what the research numbers represent.