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The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) is undertaking a review of the legislative framework in which the national statistics system operates, and members of the public are being invited to contribute to the process.
A Green Paper titled ‘Quality Statistics – An Imperative for Jamaica’ was tabled in the House of Representatives earlier this week, which looks at the recommendations and proposals that have been made regarding amendments to facilitate a more reliable system.
The document invites public participation and consultation in the process of improving the quality of and building trust in official statistics through a review of the Statistics Act; the development of a coordinating mechanism for national statistics, and obtaining views on how STATIN can improve the delivery of its service and products to the public and private sectors.
According to the paper, “good quality statistics are essential as they paint an objective picture of the state of the economic, social and environmental conditions of the country.they enable comparisons with the past and set the framework for the future”. It said further that, “good statistics are required by the government to balance their books”, through the budgetary process, evaluate the impact of the policies that have been implemented and to determine the areas of greatest need for intervention”.
Statistical information is used by businesses that make decisions on the levels of investments to be made, the types of industry in which to invest and on the levels of employment based on data relating to the economy.
In addition, individuals use the information to make personal decisions such as where to live, how to invest and where to work.
“It is imperative therefore that the users of the information that is produced within the Jamaican statistical system have the greatest confidence and trust in those data that are considered as official statistics. Confidence and trust in the system can only be achieved if the statistics are produced in accordance with the acceptable international framework and standards,” the Paper said.
STATIN is the primary provider of statistical data in the country and is responsible for the collection of data, the processing and analysis of the data and the publishing of statistical information. Such data informs policy decisions made by the government, businesses and the community as a whole.
The development, ongoing production and analysis of standards are done according to established methodologies and classifications. The statistics are produced in accordance with the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and other international guidelines and recommendations.
Outlining its analysis of the provisions contained in the Act, the Paper concluded, among other things, that while the amended Act of 1984 provided STATIN with powers to collect information under a large number of specified topics, penalties for persons, who refuse to supply information were inadequate.
It has been recommended that the Institute attempts to have the law amended to allow for substantially increased maximum penalties and to provide that maximum penalties be the subject of ministerial approval to allow for flexibility over time, taking into account inflation movements.
The Paper also stated that the Act should specifically provide for access to information from official agencies and that it would be “desirable for the legislation, to emphasize that information is collected for statistical purpose only and that individual data records must not be released to other official agencies”.
More specific coordination responsibilities are required in the legislation, the document said, in order to provide more compatible datasets and reduce duplication of effort and that STATIN should be given responsibility for promoting national standards and developing and maintaining a coordinated national statistical programme.
The Paper points out that the argument for supremacy of the Act, to deal with possible conflicts was important, as STATIN has on occasion been requested to provide public agencies investigating trade matters, information relating to businesses they are investigating and refusal by the Institute has been met by threats of legal action under their constituent enactments.
Analysis revealed that there are several departments of government, ministries and agencies involved in the collection and dissemination of statistical information and while STATIN was generally regarded as professional, independent and objective, there are some areas within the system where the quality of data can be improved.
The Paper also examined some jurisdictions, which have addressed similar concerns through the establishment of advisory bodies. Among these jurisdictions were the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Namibia.
The public is being invited to submit comments and proposals on the issues discussed in the Green Paper, copies of which are availabe at STATIN. Comments must be forwarded by November 20, 2005 to Quality Statistics, Statistical Institute of Jamaica, 7 Cecelio Avenue, Kingston 10 or email to: info@statinja.com.