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Economists label CSO a ‘complete mess’
While the Vision 2020 Action Plan has been highly praised by economists, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) has been labelled as a “complete mess.” This was the common thread found during remarks by three of this country’s economists on Thursday afternoon at the launch of the book The Underachieving Society: Development Strategy and Policy in T&T 1958-2008 at the National Library, Port-of-Spain.
The book, by former deputy governor of the Central Bank, Terrence Farrell, takes a look at the economy and society of the country over the past 50 years. Commenting on the book, economist Norman Girvan said it highlighted a culture of “non-policy” taking place in T&T. “There is so much waste and so many cost overruns, with so few consequences. The penalties of wastage are nonexistent,” Girvan said before addressing the issue of Vision 20/20 addressed in the book.
“Vision 20/20 was the single, most valuable policy exercise created in this country and it is a pity better use was not made of it. “It is the greatest single missed opportunity since independence.” “Had Vision 2020’s framework been utilised perhaps we would have been on a firmer, more self-sustaining course than we have today,” Girvan said.
Vision 2020 was an action plan and policy framework developed under the People’s National Movement. Also commenting on the book, economist Shelton Nicholls described Vision 2020 as the most comprehensive and organised development plan the country had ever undertaken. “It is unfortunate that it was never allowed to take off.”
He added that he would like to see the nation really pay attention to a sustained approach to producing policy. He also called on the country to pay better attention to data collection. “We will not be able to make good decisions in the absence of information.” While the author himself, Farrell, also spoke about the merits of Vision 2020, he labelled the CSO a “shambles.”
“You cannot run a society without data or numbers, but here we have a society producing less data today than it was producing 30 years ago. “The CSO is a complete mess,” Farrell said. He questioned the fact that the country had yet to initiate a statistical institute despite advice from foreign consultants several years ago. Farrell also defended the provocative title of his book, saying: “We certainly are not an overachieving society.”