A United Nations consultant, speaking at a Central Statistical Office (CSO) launch last week, said the process of bringing T&T's statistical office up to international standards would be a long one.
"Improving statistical collection takes a long time to get better and it would not happen overnight," said Neil Dourmsashkin, a consultant at PARIS 21, during a presentation at the CSO launch two Wednesdays ago.
The Business Guardian tried to contact Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie for his opinion on what the PARIS 21 consultant said, but Tewarie's office said that the minister would speak about the CSO in greater detail at a media conference in the future.
Sterling Chadee, director of statistics at the CSO, told the Business Guardian that PARIS 21 was invited because of its international reach and experience in statistics.
"We had invited them because their national development of statistics is one of their babies and what they are good at. This is their expertise. We had approached them because we never had one for T&T," he said.
The Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS 21) was founded in November 1999 by the United Nations, the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank, in response to the UN Economic and Social Council resolution on the goals of the UN Conference on Development.
The partnership's consortium was set up as a global framework of national, regional and international statisticians, analysts, policy-makers, development professionals and other users of statistics. It is a forum and network to promote, influence and facilitate statistical capacity development and the better use of statistics.
Ava Mahabir-Dass, senior statistical officer at the Central Statistical Office (CSO), who also spoke to the Business Guardian said despite challenges in the past, they are working hard to build a new national statistical system (NSS).
"One of the things we are going to do to address stakeholders not getting information as easily as they would like to, is during the next couple of months, there will be the launching of a new Web site. On that Web site, the data will be much more accessible. What we have realised at the CSO is that a lot of our stakeholders do not realise we produce the date that they need. I do not think that the situation is as bad as people think it is. I think we do have a lot of information but what is happening is that we need to let people know what we have," she said.
Mahabir-Dass said PARIS 21 will be giving the CSO a guide as to how they could achieve the roadmap to build a national statistical system.
"They are actually telling us all the things we need to do to look at the system, assess the system and how we could collaborate with all the stakeholders and come up with a vision of where we want to go and create the roadmap to get there."
She said the roadmap to establish a new national statistical system includes not only the CSO but other stakeholder bodies like the universities and government ministries.
"We have a draft timetable and we are hoping that by the end of 2015 into 2016 we should be able to be finished the process. Then we are going to come up with a budget and a five-year plan. We are going to cost each activity and things like that. The Business Guardian, as an example, is one of the many stakeholders that want to share information and we have to collaborate with. The entire business community can look forward to more timely information," she said.
She said the CSO would just be one part of the NSS.
"We are not the only ones who produce statistics. Other organisations, trade bodies, private sector and government bodies would also be involved. So you have the producers of statistics and you also have the users which could be anybody from the media to academia to researchers."
Chadee said the plan is to improve the entire system.
"This would help the production of statistics and usage of system," he said.
Mahabir-Dass and Chadee spoke with the Business Guardian two Wednesdays ago at the presentation of the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics at the Hilton Trinidad Hotel and Conference Centre, Port-of-Spain.
The IMF, in its 2014 Article IV Consultation staff report press release, said that growing statistical shortcomings have rendered the conduct of surveillance ever harder in T&T and this must be addressed. (See below)
In 2013, because of the poor conditions at the CSO building on Independence Square, they have moved to Park Street, Port-of-Spain.
In May, Tewarie at a media conference at the Radisson Hotel in Port-of-Spain, said the CSO will soon be moving into a newly constructed building on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, and other aspects of its restructuring will be rolled out in the coming months.
Statistics and Investors
Joanne Deoraj, deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning, speaking at the CSO launch, said a national statistics strategy is important for any country's development.
"It is the basis for a country to learn the reliable statistical systems that produce data to design and monitor national development policies and programmes. Equally important is the development of a national strategy to connect data to meet our reporting obligations as a nation state to regional and international agencies. The aim of developing such a strategy is to improve our statistics on an ongoing basis and to strengthen national statistical capacity."
She also said she wants all the stakeholders to use and understand the data in the new national statistical system.
She said, in 2014, the Government established a management transition team to review all the reports of Statistics Sweden.
"I am happy to report that the work of that team came to an end on Tuesday. We have worked very hard and we have been advised that Cabinet has accepted all the recommendations of the team as it relates to developing the national statistical office, in relation to revised legislation, organisation for infrastructure and our relationship with users and suppliers," she said.
She said the work going on with PARIS 21 will be closely aligned to the work of the transition team for the implementation of all the recommendation for the CSO in the next 18 months.
"I am hoping in the next 18 months we will have a brand new, if not better recognised CSO for T&T, the region and global community."
She added that good statistics is the cornerstone for good governance and to manage the economy.
"Good statistics are necessary to ensure public and private efficient working, for the society and the environment. When we talk about good statistics we are talking about timely, accurate and detailed statistics that can enable the effective management of T&T's macro-economic policy, monitoring and fiscal policy."
She said potential investors need data and statistics to know if and when to invest.
"In terms of macro-economic policy, we know that investors are looking at with great interest for opportunities in our capital-intensive industries such as petrochemicals and other manufacturing ventures and, importantly, our ability to diversify our economy. To achieve a balanced economy, diversification policies are needed to be effective and to be effective they must identify areas where there is value and value added industries. Good statistics can identify where economic opportunities lie," she said.
She said they want to build not only the quantity of statistics but the quality of statistics.
"The quality of the statistics really give T&T the standards that it needs to be comparable to other countries, to give us the impartiality and scientific principles of data collection that stand up to the United Nations system and other systems across the world," she said.