JIS News

The supremacy and the role of the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) as the official data gathering agency of the state, needs to be made expressly clear through, among other things, legislative changes, which will ensure that public and private sector agencies understand that they have a duty to cooperate and provide information to the Institute.
This was expressed by the Institute and representatives of a number of public sector entities at a consultation on STATIN’s recently published Green Paper entitled ‘Quality Statistics: An Imperative for Jamaica’. The dialogue is the third in a series and was held at the Jamaica Conference Centre yesterday (Oct. 4). The session served to discuss the Paper and to build awareness at the operational level of public sector agencies.
The session emphasized not only the need to project STATIN as the primary agency providing statistics, but also the importance of providing quality statistics as the Institute continues its modernization programme, which began in 2001.
In her opening remarks, Director General of STATIN, Sonia Jackson explained that, “as we become part of the CSME (CARICOM Single Market and Economy), more and more information is required about us and on us. This (the process) started with STATIN looking at itself in 2001 and we realised that we had to improve not just ourselves, but the quality of statistics in Jamaica”.
She noted that, “we started on a modernization programme and one of the areas that came up for review in that programme, in addition to all the other areas of institutional strengthening, and infrastructural strengthening, was the quality of statistics and information about Jamaica”.
Pertinent to that information base she said, “is the legislative framework within which we work. The Statistical Act itself is fairly good, but we recognize that it needed to be strengthened because we had experienced a number of problems, so we chose the route of getting public consultation on the process and looking from your side what it is you want us to do, and what it is we have to do”.
During the discussion session, it was suggested that in order to give the agency the high level “image” that it was seeking, the chairmanship of the Board of Directors should be at the ministerial level to give the Institute high visibility. It was also felt that the private sector needed to have a better understanding and appreciation for the work of the Institute and the necessity of providing data willingly.
Miss Jackson noted that presentations would be made to the private sector through coordinating bodies such as the Jamaica Manufacturer’s Association (JMA) and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) as, “a lot of the data that we ought to get needs to come from them, but we do have an awareness programme problem, even in the public sector”.
Fielding questions as to how much resources STATIN could provide, particularly to assist agencies and organizations in the compilation of data, Miss Jackson explained that as part of its modernization “road map”, the Institute would in fact be working with entities to identify their needs and to help build their statistical and reporting framework.
She noted that presently, a significant amount of the data that STATIN was provided with was sourced from administrative data that were not necessarily established for statistical purposes. Miss Jackson said the Institute would work with agencies to assist them with keeping the data in such a manner that it could be used for statistical purposes. “We understand that a lot of agencies do need the assistance,” she remarked. The Director General emphasized that STATIN was not seeking to establish a “citadel”.
“Everybody will have their continued reporting, but what we want to have is access to the information. We don’t want to create any massive database,” she stated, explaining that STATIN simply wanted the authority to say how those agencies should collect their data to ensure that there was quality behind the data. “We don’t want to take over for example, health, education or crime statistics; we want to make sure that the agencies attached to these statistics follow the guidelines for gathering the statistics,” Miss Jackson clarified.
On the issue of confidentiality, Miss Jackson said that this was a sore-point in seeking to gather data, but assured that information could not be released that would identify a company or an individual without the written permission of such company or individual. She noted that although the existing Act addressed confidentiality, it “does not specifically state that the information shall be used for statistical purposes only”. This, she said, was another issue that had been pinpointed during the reviews of the legislation.
Meanwhile, in her presentation on the Green Paper, Consultant Denier Little said, the importance of statistical information could not be overstated and should not be underrated although “we find that it is underestimated in our system, therefore it has created some problems”.
She pointed out, that the importance of statistics could be seen at the macro and micro levels, providing government with information to support the formulation and monitoring of social, economic and environmental policies at the macro level and providing businesses with information to promote the efficient functioning of industry and commerce at the micro level. It also provides researchers, analysts and other individuals with information to assist in their work and academic pursuits.
The national statistical system is a collective set of outputs that are produced within the official statistical system, the sum total of all public access databases and publications that provide statistical information.
Integral to this system are official statistics. Speaking on the importance of official statistics, Ms. Denier said it was an essential basis for development in economic, demographic, social and environmental areas, informing policy and planning decisions made by government, businesses and the community.
In a self-examination of STATIN, a process from which the Green Paper was formulated, it was discovered, Ms. Denier said, that the Act would need to be strengthened in certain areas if Jamaica was going to accomplish the objective of quality statistics and its imperative for the country.
Therefore, a review of the Act was undertaken by internal and external agencies. It was found, among other things, that the legislation could mention the specific use for which the information was being provided to STATIN and that the penalties were too low to secure compliance.
The review also found that the Act should be strengthened so that STATIN could have access to information from official agencies and not just on a discretionary basis, but by way of legislative authority to request such information.
“In the internal review of the Act, specific coordination responsibilities was identified as an issue and it was recommended that when surveys were to be undertaken by different entities, STATIN should endorse the areas of the surveys – not decide whether or not this survey should go ahead, but the methods,” Ms. Denier said.
Also introduced at the seminar was the CARICOM work programme. Part of CARICOM’s responsibility is harmonization and standardization of statistics at the regional level. The programme speaks about the volume of work that Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean had to accomplish over the next three years. “It is a very ambitious work programme, but we have all started on the process in one way or another. We have already collected some of the data,” Ms. Jackson said.
The consultations will continue on the Green Paper and at the end of two years, the Director General informed, “we should have it (the road map) all come together and working”. This road map model she informed, came out of the Partnership in Statistics for the 21st Century (PARIS 21) model, which emerged in Europe with the establishment of the European Union.