Great progress in enhancing Region’s data ecosystems acknowledged

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Statistics stakeholders in the Region were commended for their efforts to create and enhance their data ecosystems but were cautioned that a lot more remains to be done to improve the availability of data.

Dr. Barbara Adams, Deputy Programme Manager, Regional Statistics Programme at the CARICOM Secretariat pointed to the positive developments in statistics as she made remarks at the opening of the Forty-Seventh Meeting of the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians (SCCS) and the Thirty-Fifth meeting of the Regional Census Coordinating Committee on 31 October 2022. The Twenty-Ninth Meeting of the CARICOM Advisory Group on Statistics preceded the two meetings.

She highlighted the efforts of Member States to conduct their census activities “amidst insurmountable challenges” mainly due to COVID-19; the “great progress” in enhancing data ecosystems; enhanced statistical capacity-building with the support of international development partners; and the development of a series of statistics-focused initiatives.

“Despite these positive developments there is still increased demand for data in new and existing areas and the call to access open data also becomes greater. Likewise, data gaps still exist due to several reasons including, difficulties in implementing updated international methodological frameworks, resource constraints, specifically staffing, and funding for statistical operations.  

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic also made it necessary to provide statistics about health, the environment, and the socio-economic dynamics in our societies. The growing demand for accurate and up-to-date data thereby requires adapting new data collection methods in searching for additional, new, and non-traditional data sources,” Dr. Adams said.

Among the matters the meetings will consider are the implementation of the CARICOM Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS); the 2020 Round of Population and Housing Census; and Statistical Training Initiatives.

Please see Dr. Adams’ remarks below:

Directors of Statistics/Chief Statisticians of CARICOM Member States, Associate Members and Observer Countries

Representatives from our International Development Partners

Staff of the Regional Statistics Programme of the CARICOM Secretariat

Other distinguished guests

Welcome!

It is an honor for me to greet you on the occasion of the Forty -Seventh Meeting of the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians (47th SCCS); and the Thirty-Fifth Meeting of the Regional Census Coordinating Committee (35th RCCC).

These meetings were preceded by the Twenty-Ninth Meeting of the CARICOM Advisory Group on Statistics (29th AGS), which is the working arm of the SCCS where critical issues pertaining to the regional statistical work programme and the development of statistics are addressed and recommendations are advanced to the SCCS for review and endorsement. Similar to last year, we would not be having our usual Regional Statistical Research Seminar series due to the overwhelmingly demands of our statistical offices as a result of the census and other priorities.  However, given its importance in encouraging and generating much needed regional research, we are committed to returning to this activity for the next SCCS where we can hopefully meet face to face.

The theme for this year’s series of meetings as well as the Fourteenth Observance of Caribbean Statistics Day, which was commemorated on the 15th of October is “Leave no one behind… Everyone Counts.” This theme was also used at the region-wide Census launch and the Promotion of the 2020 Round of Population and Housing Census in CARICOM that took place on the 3rd of August 2021 and 28th of April 2022 respectively. Our focus must be on promoting the 2020 round of Population and Housing Census in CARICOM countries given its importance in informing sustainable development, building resilience and in creating the statistical infrastructure for future surveys and censuses as well as ensuring a robust statistical system.

Many of our countries continued the enumeration of the 2020 Round of Population and Housing Census, amidst insurmountable challenges mainly due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. As a result, some countries had to delay their census exercise until 2023 or 2024. CARICOM countries should be commended for their efforts to guarantee the continuation of this crucial statistical exercise and thus, guaranteeing the provision of key statistics and indicators urgently needed to provide information for governments and citizens to make informed decisions. The information produced by census is critical in informing policies such as education, health, labour, social protection, housing that can improve the lives of our residents especially our vulnerable population groups such as women and men, children and youth, the elderly, and persons with a disability.

Over the years, CARICOM countries have made great progress in enhancing their data ecosystems, making data available to users.

We must, therefore, commend the Heads and staff of the National Statistical Offices and the National Statistical System for improving the availability of data.

In addition, International Development Partners (IDPs) have provided substantive support in some areas of statistical capacity building either through the CARICOM Secretariat, directly to Member States or through other organizations.

Also, several regional public goods to support the improvement of statistics in CARICOM were developed some with the support from the IDPs, such as the Regional Statistical Work Programme (RSWP), CARICOM Model Statistics Bill, the Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS), Common Framework for the Conduct of Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI), and the Project Management Framework for Census Planning and Execution. Presently, the Regional Statistics Programme, with the assistance of a consultant funded by the 11th EDF – European Union, is developing a CARICOM Central Statistics Repository making it possible to extract data and generate reports for dissemination and reporting.

We, therefore, would like to express appreciation to friendly Nations and the International Development Partners for their substantive support to the Region in the past and at present, namely the European Union – European Development Fund (EDF), International Development Bank (IDB), United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), Partnership in Statistics for Development in the Twenty-First Century (PARIS21), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland through the Department for International Development (DFID), Government of Spain and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UN Women-Caribbean, Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC), the World Bank under the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Government of Canada through the Canadian Development Agency (CIDA) and the Project for the Regional Advancement for Statistics in the Caribbean (PRASC), Government of Italy – through the Italian Office of Statistics (Istat), Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and International Labour Organization (ILO).

As we approach the commemoration of 50 years as a Caribbean Community next year, 2023, we are reminded of the objectives of the Community and as such the need for data to guide, evaluate and monitor the progress made by the Community. The Inaugural Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government recognized the need for harmonized statistics for decision-making across the Community when they endorsed the establishment of the SCCS in 1974. The SCCS was established within the framework of the Treaty establishing the Caribbean Community with the following main objectives:

  • To foster increased recognition of the importance of adequate statistical services to the countries of the Region;
  • To widen the scope and coverage of statistical data collection; and
  • To improve the quality, comparability and timeliness of statistics produced.

The SCCS/AGS was instrumental in the development of several initiatives such as the Model Statistics Bill, the peer-review system of the Code of Good Statistical Practices, the Centres of Excellence, the Common Census Framework- CARICOM Regional Census Strategy, CARICOM Code of Good Statistical Practices (CGSP), the CARICOM Quality Assurance Framework (CQAF), and the Action Plan for Statistics.

Implementation of the recommendations of the Action Plan for Statistics in the Caribbean as endorsed by the 37th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government (HGC) of CARICOM in 2016, is still critical. The Plan covers five major issues and specific actions. Some of these major issues are:

  • Governments should undertake the strengthening of the National Statistical Systems (NSS) and specifically the National Statistical Offices (NSO)
  • Governments should pursue the upgrading of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) base
  • Governments should support a regional approach to the development of statistics to optimize scarce resources in the strengthening of the NSS.

Moreover, the observance of the Caribbean Statistics Day – October 15th was agreed to by the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians (SCCS) at its Thirty Fifth Meeting. This observance serves to sensitise and inform users, suppliers and producers of the importance and role of Statistics and the impact statistical information plays towards the development of the Caribbean Region. This year was its fourteenth observance.

The SCCS also recommended the development of the CARICOM Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS) in the Caribbean which was endorsed at the Thirty-Ninth Regular Meeting of the Heads of Government in July 2018. Implementation of the RSDS and NSDS are crucial for strengthening and improving the availability of statistical data.

Thus, the Region must recognize the vital role and significant contribution of this Regional body – the SCCS, and its subsidiary groups- the Advisory Group on Statistics (AGS) and the Regional Census Coordinating Committee (RCCC). These regional bodies consist of Directors of Statistics/Chief Statisticians of CARICOM countries. In this regard, we would like to commend the SCCS/AGS for their tremendous contribution towards improving statistics in the Region. Tribute will be paid to some past directors/chief statisticians tomorrow, at the second day of the 47th SCCS meeting, for their contribution at both the national and regional level. 

All the above indicates that a lot has been accomplished. However, a lot remains to be done.

Despite these positive developments there is still increased demand for data in new and existing areas and the call to access open data also becomes greater. Likewise, data gaps still exist due to several reasons including, difficulties in implementing updated international methodological frameworks, resource constraints, specifically staffing, and funding for statistical operations.  The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic also made it necessary to provide statistics about health, the environment, and the socio-economic dynamics in our societies. The growing demand for accurate and up-to-date data thereby requires adapting new data collection methods in searching for additional, new, and non-traditional data sources.

Additionally, there are 231 indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals to produce and disseminate. The CARICOM Secretariat – Regional Statistics Programme has produced and disseminated this year two statistical bulletins for Goals 1 and 2 of the SDGs. The regional SDG database still has significant data gaps, revealing the gaps at the national levels. However, several countries have produced, or plan to update their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). We, therefore, also thank the IDPs for their assistance in making this possible.

Even now, there are many challenges facing CARICOM countries that affect the availability of statistics for use by policy and decision-makers. Some of these challenges include:

Small size of the National Statistical Offices (NSOs), inadequate staff, high staff turnover for some offices, outdated legislative frameworks, absence of a National Statistical System- lack of coordination of the producing agencies that may impact the data gaps, and absence of coordinated response by IDPs resulting in duplication of efforts, waste of resources and intensification of the burden on the NSOs. These challenges are aggravated by the increased national, regional, and international demands for statistics.

Consequently, more support is needed to assist countries to compile local data relevant to the Sustainable Development Goals, international and regional commitments, and other type of data. Data has value, and information is expensive. Notwithstanding the resources provided by IDPs the investment required for statistics modernization and transformation in the region to meet current demands is still lacking.

Thus, now is the time for a regional dialogue – a dialogue to evaluate, and adjust the support provided to the countries. Now is the time to maximize efficiency in the use of available resources. Now is the time, to map out specific critical data needs since countries are not able to immediately meet this high demand of data, hence minimizing the burden placed on countries in responding to so many stakeholders. Now is the time for effective and efficient partnership/collaboration. The time is now, let’s not wait any longer.

Finally, I must thank my colleagues in the Regional Statistics Programme for their support, in no particular order – Deoram Persaud, Kevin Sears, Lalita Sohai, Belinda Henry, Michelle Chase, Marissa Ramotar, Faustina Wiggins, Reanata Ramsey, Jessie Mohamed, and Joshua Khan.

Wishing all fruitful discussions at the 47th SCCS and 35th RCCC meetings.

I thank you.

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